Dietetics: Coursework is Over!

End. Of. Didactic.

No more coursework!
Baiiiiiiiiiiii

If you’ve been hanging out here, you probably know there are a few hoops to jump through before you get the joy of becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), which you can reference here.

Ready to take a little stroll down memory lane with me?

Jax is a v helpful biostats tutor. Actually Zack genuinely is- but he’s not pictured.

The didactic portion lasted from August 2018-December 2019 and included biochemistry-heavy classes like energy and non-energy nutrients as well as nutrition classes like medical nutrition therapy (MNT) and counseling. There were also two public health classes, a foodservice management course (the bane of my existence), and lots more. My program had the option to tack on another semester to get the M.A. in Dietetics and an M.S. in Nutritional Sciences, so I figured “why the hell not?” and I packed a whole other semester of coursework into this Fall semester, because I’m a glutton for punishment. Honestly, I just do not enjoy school and I desperately need it to end (aka ya girl misses a paycheck). Usually people take an additional semester to tack on the M.S. coursework, but I distinctly remember thinking, “I can handle this!” and I did! Not well. Not gracefully. I didn’t sleep and rarely got a day off to rest. But here we are.

Why the additional Master’s?

Let me preface by saying I think you can FOR SURE be successful without one in this profession, but here’s my logic anyway:

– I don’t have a science degree. My B.A. is in sociology, and without the science degree, this program is by default an M.A. in Dietetics…and that kinda bummed me out. Didn’t want to be limited by the arts, even though I so very much appreciate them and will forever be proud of my liberal arts background. I feel like my resume should reflect that I took a crap ton of biochem and organic chemistry and biology to get here, ya know?
– The field of dietetics is changing so quickly, and I didn’t want to be swept away in its undertow.
– Did I sign up for more classes because I was afraid of being limited professionally? Yes. And I don’t want to look back and say, “Yeah- I could’ve done that.” NO. RA.GRETS. (p.s. I reached out to lots of RD friends before making this decision and most feedback was, “well…it wouldn’t hurt!”)
– And finally…I don’t mind research. I did some undergrad research at UT, and it was a worthwhile experience (although painful). I seriously don’t mind putting in the work. Plus, I’m getting some data on Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis patients that we can build on for the future, which is meaningful to me.

This past semester we started our clinical rotations on Fridays, and this is my clinical group. Don’t let the white coats fool ya- we still have all the things to learn, but it’s exciting to get to see patients. I found out that I really love critical care and calculating tube feedings for specific disease states, and of course I love GI nutrition, too. I mean. Of course. I’m leaning heavily toward clinical pediatrics, but I’m open-minded to wherever the wind blows!

Not pictured: I took 19 hours of coursework, which until October was actually 22 hours because I was busy catching up from the Summer semester when I had to delay classes for a hospital stay. If you’re new here, I’ve been in a Crohn’s disease flare since 2017. It was “ulcerative colitis” and now it’s “Crohn’s” and we can’t seem to find a diagnosis or a drug that sticks.

Here I am, in the middle of finals hooked up to an IV that I happily drive 6 hours round trip to receive. This drug is designed to target my gut inflammation specifically by making it calm the eff down, but my body seems to have other plans of being even more resilient than the medicine and has neglected to respond to it despite 5 months of trying this drug. It’s fine.

Oh- speaking of the Crohn’s, my college roommate turned lifelong pal Haley and I participated in the Foundation’s Spin4 Crohn’s and Colitis Cures fundraising event, and our team “Pina Colitis” raised more than $2,000 in November. Thanks to everyone who donated! Thank you to everyone who purchased the fun smoothie eBook that I made! Couldn’t have done it without y’all.

^smoothie recipe from the eBook 🙂

^here’s an unfiltered look at my walk to school. Isn’t fall here pretty? Fall always makes academics feel more academic. To keep this all brief, I’m going to sum this up with highs and lows:

Highs from didactic:
– all of the nutrition-specific classes
– getting less uncomfortable with public speaking
– making good friends!!!
– cool opportunities: getting to attend lots of conferences, continuing education, networking events, interning, etc. So many chances to keep learning in lots of different areas!

Lows from didactic:
– group projects
– tests. I hate a test. I’d love to soak up information through lectures and projects and presentations and papers, but GAWD I HATE TESTS
– my health. not in a good place. Kinda tired of that.

Learning how to drop a feeding tube!

Finally- if you’re interested in dietetics and nutrition…reach out to me! I’m always happy to gush about the field and try to convince you why it’s my favorite profession and should be yours too 😉

If you’re thinking about health sciences but you’re deterred from all the hard sciences and dedication- just keep telling yourself all the hard things you do over and over every day. We are all juggling hard stuff- sometimes we get the privilege of prioritizing school temporarily over other hard times…and other times, like right now, we are done with coursework, relaxing on the couch with The Holiday playing in the background, not worried about another final.

Not gonna miss ya, coursework. Here’s to what’s next: supervised practice, and more immediately, a cup of hot chocolate


So…You Want to Be a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

Happy National Nutrition Month! MARCH! Can it feel like Spring, already? To commence National Nutrition Month, I’m sharing some things about a profession I’m pretty stoked about: nutrition! Scroll down for more.

H O W

How to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN)? What is an RDN?

An RDN is a food and nutrition expert who has successfully completed:
– a bachelor’s degree
– prerequisite coursework for a DPD or CP
– 1200 hours of supervised practice (dietetic internship)
– a national credentialing exam

There are a number of routes to becoming an RDN, but here’s the route I took/ am currently taking:
bachelor’s degree: check! B.A. in Sociology- note: the bachelor’s does NOT have to be in the field of nutrition, because beginning in 2024, a master’s will be required to sit for the credentialing exam.
– I worked full-time and took the prerequisites simultaneously, because I could not afford to up and quit my job. I took biochemistry, organic chemistry, chemistry 2 with the lab component, and nutrition through the lifespan one.semester.at.a.time. It took 5-ever, but I am told that it will be worth it. Plus, I didn’t accumulate additional debt from paying on a course or two at a time. Bonus: If you work for a hospital, a lot of them will pay for the prerequisites!  Look into their tuition-reimbursement programs and see!
-I enrolled in a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD). A DPD is ONLY the coursework component to become a dietitian- not the internship. Think of the DPD as step 2 in the process after completion of prerequisites. I FULLY planned on working and going to school simultaneously like I had been doing, and then I was planning to apply for a dietetic internship (DI) later. Thankfully, I moved to a town with a Coordinated Program (CP) that combines the internship with the classwork.
-I’m currently completing the CP, and when it’s all done, I’ll have all my supervised practice AND some graduate degrees under my belt. Once I graduate, then I am eligible to sit for the CDR credentialing exam. Some states require additional licensure to be a licensed dietitian to practice (LD).

I wanted to be credentialed- that was important to me, because in order to work for the World Health Organization, hospitals, and community programs like WIC, even NASA…they require that RDN credential. Without the credential, the future seemed uncertain and volatile to me. If credentialing isn’t important, I suggest checking out programs in integrative nutrition. However, I don’t know if “nutritionist” will always be an option without pursuing the credential. Many people are advocating for the “nutritionist” title to be protected through the RDN credential, which can only be attained via the steps I listed at the top of this post. What I’m saying is, all dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians…make sense?

What does an RDN do?
Where are they?

Glad you asked! They work anywhere and everywhere! In gyms, hospitals, schools, corporate wellness, for NFL, the NHL, MLB teams, the Olympics, collegiate sports teams, community programs, in education/academia, for the NIH, the WHO, for THEMSELVES in private practice, in the media, and beyond. RDNs provide individualized, evidence-based nutritional counseling and medical nutrition therapy (MNT). RDNs take a scientific approach to health maintenance and prevention. RDNs can even join practice groups (DPG) and gain field-specific knowledge in areas like pediatrics, diabetes, integrative and functional medicine, culinary arts, and environmental hunger. Dietitians can even become board certified in sports nutrition, pediatrics, clinical nutrition, oncology, diabetes, and more!

^Texas Medical Center in Houston

What excites me about the field of nutrition?

I think there’s room for entrepreneurship and growth in the nutrition field. People are more interested in nutrition and disease prevention than ever, and the job growth for this field is exciting. I like the idea of piece-mealing a career that’s rooted in science, helpful for others in areas like counseling and education, and practical. There’s constantly new research being published to keep up with, and the science nerd in me loves that. I like that the field doesn’t have to be rigidly structured and black and white- there’s room for flexibility in nutrition…and I’m excited to see what that looks like in my own life as a professional.