Dietitian Ha Nguyen currently has a thriving nutrition private practice, but she remembers the challenges of being a nutrition student. Knowing what to expect from a dietetic internship, or from a career in nutrition can be intimidating. As a student, having a nutrition business is an exciting future endeavor. Today, Ha is sharing her insights, and personal experiences, of being a nutrition student that eventually led her to a successful nutrition career.
Not getting my ideal dietetic internship (DI) did not determine my nutrition career
I had my heart set on moving to New York City to attend the Bronx VA internship. I had never lived far from home or studied abroad during college. Even when I went off to college, I never lived more than 40 minutes away from home. I wanted to explore a new city and the thought of moving to the “Big Apple” was exciting and liberating!
On the evening of match day, I nervously waited in my living room. I was about to unveil the fate of the next 9 months of what would be the start of my RD career. The idea that the last four years of my life had led up to this very moment was daunting. “What if I don’t get in?” “Will I be able to find a job?” “What will I do this summer?” “What will my friends and family think of me?” “How will I face my classmates at graduation!?”
When I discovered that I did not match at the Bronx VA, or anywhere at all, I was heartbroken. Luckily, I had a great support system of friends and family who helped me get through the disappointment.
At the time, Drexel University was in their third year of offering the Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) program. They were taking applications for nutrition graduates who did match for a traditional internship. ISPP was my saving grace and allowed me to gain strong clinical and food service management experience at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in addition to many other experiences at various sites.
Upon finishing my internship, I was fortunate enough to be offered a Food Service Management position from my food service rotation 2 weeks before graduation.
Although I did not get into what I thought would be my ideal DI, staying in Philadelphia was the best thing that could have happened. I landed an amazing job that opened many professional doors for me, that I wouldn’t have had without the Drexel ISPP program.
What if your don’t match to a dietetic internship?
Although it may be hard, trust and believe that if you worked hard for your nutrition degree, it’s not you. The unfortunate reality is that there are simply not enough internship spots open for the number of future RDs graduating. For this very reason, I will never turn a dietetic student down should they wish to come shadow or intern with me.
Advice for after graduation: launch your nutrition career!
Your next step post-graduation will be a big life decision. The best advice I can give you is to talk to those who care about you.
- Reach out to your program directors, professors, and department chair.
- Connect with other dietitians and nutrition students in the Academy.
- Join discussions on online dietetics forums or talk to a mentor in your dietetics practice group (DPG).
These people can help you by sharing their own experiences and guiding you in the right direction. People that love you will want what’s best for you, but ultimately the only person that knows what’s best for you is yourself. Have faith that if you’ve made it this far, you already have a promising future ahead of you!
Nutrition students and dietetic interns: the path to starting your nutrition career can be intimidating. With the right support and direction, you can quickly find your place in the field of dietetics.