142: What Makes for a Great Internship Experience? with dietetic interns, Oleska & Emily

Dietitian Success Center Podcast Cover Photo 22
In this episode of The Dietitian Success Podcast, our two amazing dietetic interns, Emily & Oleska take over the mic and share a bit about their intern experiences.  Together, they talk through some helpful tips for preceptors and students, including: ...

In this episode of The Dietitian Success Podcast, our two amazing dietetic interns, Emily & Oleska take over the mic and share a bit about their intern experiences. 

Together, they talk through some helpful tips for preceptors and students, including: 

  • Small actions that can make a student feel more comfortable in a placement 
  • Delivering feedback effectively 
  • How to push your student outside their comfort zone 
  • Helpful onboarding 
  • and more! 


Episode Transcript:

So today we have a bit of a fun and different episode. We currently have two dietetic interns who are working with us right now, and so we often have our dietetic interns participate in the podcast in some way as a fun challenging project that they probably haven’t done before. So we thought for Emily and Oleska who are both getting to the end of their internship experiences, it would be really interesting to have them talk about some of the specific things that have made for positive and effective internship experiences.

And our goal is that this is helpful for both preceptors who are planning internship experiences and then also current or future dietetic interns who are maybe experiencing similar things in placement, or they’re just looking to learn more about what to expect. So in today’s episode, they are going to go back and forth and talk a little bit about things like onboarding experiences, specific projects or activities that were helpful, impactful experiences, and more.

So to start with a little introduction, Oleska is a graduate of the Toronto Metropolitan University accredited nutrition and food program, and is currently studying at University of Guelph in the Master of Applied Nutrition Program,

Oleska is currently watching a comedy show from the eighties called, Cheers. After watching and loving the spinoff show Frazier and loves to cross stitch while listening to an audiobook. Now, Emily completed her undergraduate degree in applied Human Nutrition at the University of Guelph, and again is finishing up the Master’s of Applied Nutrition Program at the University of Guelph.

And a fun fact about Emily is that she’s actually done fashion design for over a decade and is in the midst of starting a small. Business, so cool. And then lastly, before we jump in, I just want to give these two amazing individuals a round of applause because it is not easy to agree to participate in a podcast that you know will be listened to by hundreds of people.

So I want to thank both of you, Emily, and Oleska, for your courage and for being such awesome students, learners, and future RDs. With that, let’s jump into the episode. Thank you Krista, for that wonderful introduction. Again, I’m Oleska. And I’m Emily. And on this episode, we’re gonna be talking about what makes a good internship experience. This is for dietitians, current preceptors, or a future preceptors that wanna gain some insight from a student perspective. Just some background on Emily and I, we are currently both in the same program, the Masters of Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph, and this is our last placement. We are both at Dietician Success Center together. We also had placements in hospital, long-term care and global food service companies.

So using our experiences from our placements, we reflected on what was effective, what wasn’t effective, what we had hoped for, and we came up with some points that reflect these experiences. The biggest one for me was I wished that my preceptors had pushed me out of my comfort zone more.

Especially in my clinical placement, I was so scared to start interviewing and put myself out there.

Do you have any specific examples that come to mind when you say that? Yeah. Near the. The second half of my placement, let’s say my preceptor just came up to me and said, today, you’re gonna start interviewing. And that really scared me, but I’m also very grateful that she did that the day of because I, I had time to go over my counseling notes, but I didn’t have time to go home and ruminate and overthink and get anxious and all of that.

So her pushing me like that was, was very useful. Which also reminds me, my next point is I wish that my preceptors had provided me with more critical feedback or negative feedback. This isn’t for everyone, so I wanna disclaim that. I am someone who appreciates that. I would rather have complete honesty and grow from there.

But some people they may not like that they might want. information provided more softly and gently to them. So I would recommend getting an understanding of what kind of student that you have and what their preference is for feedback. DSC actually does a really good job at this because it’s a resource development company.

Everything has to be done really, really well. So we get all of the details on what we didn’t do quite right in a very respectful way. It’s not disrespectful, and I love that about this placement. It’s out of all my placements, it’s where I’ve had the most critical feedback. Yeah, I definitely agree with that.

And DSC does a great job with providing specific and performance based feedback. It’s also important to have formal and documented feedback meetings too. So the meetings should be scheduled with the student instead of giving them very general feedback when it’s convenient for you, like when you’re waiting for an elevator.

So I think you should schedule a time in the day to really reflect on that student’s strengths, their weaknesses and examples, supporting those ideas. It’s also a good idea to write the feedback down so that you can revisit it during the next feedback meeting to see if the student made any sort of improvement.

And then that way it’s both formal and documented. Feedback is critical and valuable to improve. Student’s performance and also build their confidence. So in one of my placements, I actually didn’t have any scheduled feedback meetings with my preceptor. She’d tell me specific things to fix and change, whether it was adding something in or taking something out, but she didn’t comment on my actual performance.

A lot of her feedback was content related instead of focusing on me and my performance. I think that if she had taken a moment or two to reflect on my skills, she’d have a lot of comments that would be beyond surface level to help me improve my abilities. That’s a really good point. I agree. The same way that pre preceptors could cater their feedback to a student.

I also found that catering. Learning to a student was really helpful. So in my case, I really liked it when in my, clinical placement, my preceptor would give me specific homework on topics that I wasn’t very comfortable with or wasn’t too familiar with. This could be sending me articles to read over the next night or within the next few days, or something similar to that.

I feel like in my clinical placement, I really struggled with imposter syndrome, especially because it was my first placement, it was the beginning of the program, and I took some time off between my undergrad and my masters. I, so I was very rusty in my clinical nutrition knowledge, having that specific homework.

Made me feel more confident in doing interviews and everything else in that placement. Definitely, and I find it important that preceptors put our needs for learning first. There was actually a comment that one of my preceptors had told me on my very first day of placement that I really resonated with.

She said that You’re not here to check things off my to-do list. You’re here to learn. That was probably the number one most important thing for me, and I’ll never forget it. A preceptor’s there to guide, support, and supervise students among other things. So how do I help my student get to that place? Well by supporting their learning, being available, answering questions, having them observe and participate, and just overall actively being involved in their learning journey.

And then as the student becomes more and more independent, they’ll be able to take on some of your work and tasks. The student should experience what a day in the life feels like, but preceptors should help them get to that point, whether that’s three weeks into the placement or halfway there. It’ll vary by placement, but the point is to really provide the stepping stones for students to really facilitate independence.

And then along those lines, it’s a good idea to establish a learning environment. Most of my preceptors gave me a learning plan that had all my projects and the timeline to complete them. I think that’s a really handy tool for interns because it indirectly shows the progression from being dependent to becoming more independent.

It also shows us that we’re not given a checklist of projects to complete, but that there’s an actual purpose behind each and every one of those assignments. I learned so much from that placement because I was in a mindset that I’m here to learn as much as I can, not that I need to complete something by a certain date, and it made me really excited to learn too, knowing that my preceptor was interested, involved, and invested in my learning and development.

That’s so true. It’s so important for preceptors to respect why the student is there. It’s their learning experience over and above everything else, and along those lines, I found that one of the most. Impactful things that my preceptor did with me is create a preceptor student bond and

doing that made me feel like I was part of the team. It made me more comfortable and it made me feel like I wasn’t just a student there or a burden or someone who’s doing make work projects. I was there doing a job like everyone else and I really appreciated that. One thing I could suggest is taking your student out for lunch at the end of the placement.

One of my preceptors did that with me and I, it really touched me because they took the time to do that, whereas I understand some preceptors are very busy, but that just showed. The effort and that I wasn’t just another student in line before the next student.

I agree with that a hundred percent. It’s extremely important that the preceptor bond and bill report with their student, and while it’s important to bond with the student, it’s also important that the student bond with other professionals in that setting as well. It can be pretty intimidating to go up to someone and introduce myself as a dietetic intern, especially to these very busy.

Physicians, nurses and managers, but one of my preceptors, it made that quite easy for me because she introduced me to literally every single person that she knew and interacted with. It brought on a sense of belongingness because I felt involved and actually part of the team and part of the conversation instead of a temporary member just awkwardly standing there in meetings and conversations.

In contrast to that, I had another preceptor that only introduced me to a few people. A lot of the times I felt like I wasn’t part of that conversation, and I kind of felt like I was almost eavesdropping on the conversation just cuz I was standing behind my preceptor not saying anything. But this did push me to introduce myself to more people on my own, which I think is a great skill.

But I didn’t feel the sense of belongingness that I mentioned earlier. I think introductions are a huge aid for networking, connecting, and finding that expertise, and those are all valuable things when starting out as an entry-level dietician. And lastly, I wanted to highlight a helpful experience of mine.

So at the beginning of one of my placements, one of my preceptors asked me what my weakness was. I told her that communication was definitely not one of my strong suits, and we all know that is super essential in our dietetic profession. She gave me a lot of opportunities to deliver presentations and host meetings on my own very early on.

And this opened up communication with patients, their families, the multidisciplinary health team and other dieticians. It made me really comfortable with communication later on in the placement because I felt comfortable voicing my opinions and my clinical judgments to others, and I felt comfortable seeking advice from others and talking on the phone to a patient’s, family members without a notice.

So my advice here is to really learn about your student and learn about their weaknesses. Then make it your goal to give them that exposure to that skill and implement more of what they need. I think you should tailor the experience to your student because we all learn and thrive differently. What an excellent point to end us off.

Thank you, Emily. So to wrap things up, we’d like to summarize the points that we’ve mentioned. Some of the things that I’ve talked about were try to push your students out of their comfort zone because they may not feel comfortable to do that themselves. Provide critical feedback as much as possible if that’s something that your student is comfortable with.

Provide specific homework that helps to support their learning or learning gaps that they may have, and also try to bond with your student to make them feel like they’re part of the team and not just another student there. And most of what I mentioned are points that really helped me build skills that I can apply in so many situations.

It has a lot to to do with the mindset of the preceptor being present. So that might mean taking time to reflect on abilities, to provide purposeful feedback. It can mean planning projects to be actively involved in the student’s learning. It could also mean fostering an environment of connection and support.

And lastly, providing a personalized learning experience to really improve and enhance a student’s passion and their capacities Overall, both Oleska and I, we had wonderful placement opportunities and they can always be improved and strengthened for an even better learning experience. We hope our perspectives were insightful and can help you in the future.

So thank you for listening, and Krista will be back with regular programming next Thursday.