1 year RD-versary

Today marks my one year anniversary of passing the RD exam and officially becoming a Registered Dietitian. Thought I should dedicate a post to the occasion.

People always often ask “What made you decide to become a dietitian?”. Not that I’m complaining; I frequently ask others (or at least wonder). The stories behind anyone’s career path always fascinate me, and dedicating yourself to teaching others about food and nutrition usually was motivated by some story of interest.

I actually made my decision to study nutrition back when I was in high school, which seems like eons ago. I never changed my mind once I started class, although my plans for a double major or minor changed almost monthly (biochemistry, linguistics, child and family development, before settling on food science).

My dietetic internship at Vanderbilt (when I first started this blog) was an intense but rewarding post-college 10 month experience, and opened my eyes to all types of avenues for dietitians to explore.

Did I ever think I’d work in mental health? Heck, no. The only exposure I got to anything remotely close to mental health was a few patients who would end up in the medical ICU, which I chose as my “staff experience" rotation, post-suicide attempts, and we’d get them back up and running, medically, and then send them to the psych hospital for further psychological treatment. I can remember how unstable they were, yelling, crying, threatening, and the thought of having to sit down and talk to them about nutrition seemed impossible.

And in many cases, it is impractical and not a top priority. Since starting this job last fall, I have certainly learned to “meet the patient where they are”. Some patients do actually have questions and want to talk to you – those are the highlights of my job, where I can sit down and really teach them. Other days, you can barely get a patient to listen to you. Of no fault of their own, they may be completely depressed, anxious, psychotic, sedated, feeling horrible from detox symptoms, etc. So you do what you can.

My work on the side with the local school districts is a little more stimulating, refreshing and exciting. I would bet that if I worked with schools full-time it could become frustrating fairly quickly, dealing with difficult budget restraints, USDA regulations and overworked staff. Honestly, the only way schools make big changes in nutrition is with an entire community of motivated and determined staff and parents. My infrequent visits and recommendations can not do it all. But again, you do what you can.

So maybe that’s my lesson learned from being an RD for a year: just do what you can.

Who knows what I can do in this next year? Kind of exciting to think about it :)

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