Author: Julie Przybyla
Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2012
It’s the start of April and my days as a dietetic intern are numbered (54 to be exact). The last eight months have brought many new experiences on my path to becoming an RD. And believe me, this has been a long time in the making. It took a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a Master’s degree in Pharmacology for me to realize that nutrition and fitness is the ideal profession for me.
I believe that all dietitians want to change the world somehow either by changing one person’s life or an entire community’s lives. I’m no different. I chose this career for the personal fulfillment of making a difference in someone’s life. Aside from the didactic nutrition education and professional skills I’ve gained thus far, it’s the simplest things that remain vivid in my mind.
In this blog post, I’ll share three moments that stand out to me. I’d like to think that something I said or did helped them change their life even if in a simple way.
Moment One – What would you like for lunch?
This one actually just happened three days ago so it’s fresh in my mind. I was in the last days of my geriatric rotation at a skilled nursing facility and I had just begun to get to know the residents. My preceptor was very good about describing characteristics that made each resident unique. It was evident that the relationships between my preceptor and the residents were strong. They viewed her not only as a caregiver but a friend.
It was noon and the dining room was busy. I was given the task to help take resident’s lunch orders while my preceptor finished up some monthly charting. When I noticed that Mr. and Mrs. O’s had not been waited on, I walked over to take their order. These particular residents are not eating enough and are consistently losing weight. Mr. O ordered a small lunch without much coercing from me (except I had to twist his arm to order chocolate ice cream) but Mrs. O was not as easy. Nothing sounded good to her and every suggestion was met with a grimace. Ranch chicken with mashed potatoes? No. Macaroni and cheese and a salad? No. Peanut butter and jelly. Ew gross, no! Until I offered a tuna fish sandwich with French fries. Success! She ordered it! I went off to put their order in and went along taking more orders. A few minutes later, I glanced over and Mrs. O was happily eating her tuna fish sandwich. Hooray for the simple victory of helping someone eat lunch!
Moment Two – I’ve been there too
This moment happened during my public health rotation at a corporate wellness site. As an RD in an insurance company, my preceptor’s job is to develop and administer wellness programs for their employees and the client they insure. One program is a weekly weight loss lunch and learn where nutrition topics and weight loss tips are discussed. Many employees are actively trying to lose weight so these seminars are well attended.
Prior to that week’s meeting, I shared my weight loss experience with my preceptor. She thought it would be great way to introduce me to the group by sharing my experience. I agreed and told my story that Wednesday afternoon. The groups’ reaction to my “before” picture was pretty typical; most couldn’t believe that was me. Many asked me questions on how I did it. One even said: “by the looks of ya I would have guessed you’ve always been a skinny girl.” I could tell that just by simply giving a little insight into my life gave me more credibility on the topic of weight loss.
I’ve experienced first hand that sharing a personal experience goes a long way in building rapport and connection with clients.
Moment Three – A simple touch of a hand
This moment happened relatively early in the internship, during my cardiovascular rotation. At this point, this was my second rotation and with limited previous clinical experience, my confidence was not very high. On top of this, I was assigned a full assessment and education of a patient who recently underwent a triple coronary artery bypass surgery.
I summoned my courage and made my way over to the ICU. While walking to his room, I rehearsed in my head what I was going to ask and the topics I wanted to cover. After taking a deep breath, I knocked on the door and was greeted by Mrs. H. The patient, Mr. H was nodding off in the chair. I couldn’t even finish introducing myself before she exclaimed how happy she was that I came to talk about nutrition. She shook her husband awake only to find that he didn’t share her same enthusiasm for the education. He kept dozing off while I asked my questions. Fed up with her husband, she took me by the hand and said: “Don’t bother with him. I do all the cooking for that man. Let’s talk.” So, we went to the visitor’s lounge to discuss her husband’s nutritional needs.
Fast forward forty five minutes later and we’ve covered everything from his favorite foods, where he likes to eat out, what he eats when he’s upset and the most importantly, the changes they would have to make to prevent further heart problems. Once the conversation came to a natural stopping point, Mrs. H. placed her hand on top of mine and said the most sincere thank you I’ve ever heard. “You’ve spent so much of your time making sure all of my questions were answered. Thank you for giving me the information I need to ensure my husband gets better.”
It was just a simple thank you, but to me it means I made a difference.