Since I began High School in 1996, I have wanted to be all of the above. Funny how life changes as we grow up. Although I still find myself in the "science" field, I am really happy that I landed in the field of health and wellness.
I have always been an athlete and have always been active. Perhaps Strength & Conditioning wasn't the right fit for me but I wouldn't take back my Graduate Education for anything! I learned so much about the physiology of the body during exercise and I learned so much about myself. I also learned that just because you have MS behind your name, doesn't mean you can get a job. I wish someone would have told me (before graduate school) that the field of Exercise Physiology is very competitive!
After spending a year out of school, working as the Wellness Coordinator of the North Pinellas YMCA (as well as teaching spin classes and personal training) I was not happy. My stressful and overwhelming, but well worth-it, education was not being used. Having recently completed the Boston marathon and my first Ironman (IMFL), I believed that my recent success (in my opinion, a "finish" for an endurance event is no other than a "success") in endurance sports was due to my in depth education of the physiology of the body during exercise. As my own coach, I was enjoying my lifestyle of endurance sports but wanted to help others to reach their personal fitness goals.
I knew that training was only one part of completing a triathlon or running event. As we all know, nutrition plays a tremendous role in how we feel on a daily basis. With an injury-free and enjoyable (and energy-filled) experience training for my first IM (which qualified me for the World Championships) I wanted to help others with their nutrition in an effort to help people train more efficiently.
With a reputable Sports Nutrition certification behind my name (CISSN), as well as a MS and BA in exercise science (with a minor in psychology) I figured I had some knowledge to help others. Furthermore, as an athlete myself, I felt confident in my ability to understand exactly what others experience/feel during exercise.
After learning more about the world of sports nutrition, I realized that there was very little formal education available for people seeking a sports nutrition credential. Therefore, if I wanted to really set myself apart from other exercise physiologists, I would need to obtain some type of education in nutrition....aside from reading books, magazines and website.
After doing a little research, I decided that I would need to become a Registered Dietitian in an effort to receive an education in nutrition.
I'll be honest, when I started my dietetic program in 2008, my main goal was to learn and get the RD behind my name. Because I really do love learning, I wasn't too concerned about the time and effort of going back to school just to put the RD behind my name. When I started my schooling, I knew a little about what it took to become a Registered Dietitian but I had no idea what I was really in for.
Over the next year of obtaining the classes and credits that I needed to be eligible to apply for an internship (which comes before you are eligible to sit for the National RD exam) I learned way more information than I ever thought I would learn. Coming from a strong exercise physiology background, I can be honest and say that I did not learn hardly anything about "Sports nutrition" and I was aware of this before I started the program. While I absolutely LOVED by Advanced Nutrition and Biochemistry courses, the majority of my education was dedicated to clinical nutrition, community nutrition and food service/production.
After a few months of taking dietetic classes, I began to think more like a dietitian and less as an exercise physiologist. Actually, let me re-word that. I began to think more like an active individual who absolutely LOVED nutrition and all things related to nutrition, health and wellness.
As you know, my blog has really allowed me to display my love for nutrition and exercise. I have discovered the power that nutrition plays on the human body during exercise and the effect (both positive and negative) that food plays on the human body on a daily basis. I have learned to develop a healthy relationship with food and I feel as if my life is much more balanced because of my dietetic education.
Towards the end of my dietetic program, before applying for internships, I did a lot of soul-searching. Whereas my initial goal was to only receive the RD behind my name, I found myself really appreciating the value of food to prevent disease, to cure disease and to improve the quality of life. Five years ago I would have never thought that I would be applying to a clinical internship, after finishing the course work to become a Registered Dietitian.
Fast forward from Sept 2009, just a few days after completing IMKY, I discovered that the internship process to get into an internship was more competitive than I could ever imagined. I did not get into the Mayo Clinic on my first try of applying to internships in Sept 2009 (you can apply 2 times a year, Sept and Feb, depending on the program you are applying to). This was a long shot because it was local so I wasn't too terrible upset that I didn't get matched.
The second try was a bit more stressful. I applied to both VA's in Florida (Tampa and Bay Pines) and received a 30 min. phone interview to both (top 25ish candidates out of 140 applicants received a phone interview) on the 3rd from last week in March.
April 5th was match day.
If you know anything about becoming a MD, becoming an RD is very similar. Once you finish your course work, you apply to internship programs and you use a computer program to pick your first, second, third, etc. choice. Then, depending on whether or not the internship thinks you are qualified (these internships are VERY competitive), they will either rank you or not even consider you. If the internship ranks you, then the computer program will match up applicants to their internship depending on the rank. For example, if I picked Tampa as my first choice and Bay Pines as my 2nd choice and 7 other people also picked Tampa as their first choice, it would be up to Tampa to decide the order of applicants to be picked for the Tampa VA internship. If Tampa picked me as 2nd, I would get in. If Tampa picked me as 7th (and had the other 6 people ahead of me, with them also picking Tampa as their first choice) I would be bumped out.
Make sense??? Didn't think so.
I waited all day on Mon and it was the LONGEST day of my life. 7pm EST came around and when I clicked on the matching tab, my heart dropped to the floor.
I cried as I texted Karel and I cried a little more that evening. Considering that around 50% of potential interns DO NOT get matched (can you believe that!!) I was bummed that I didn't get into the internships that I really sought after in order to obtain a top-notch, yet challenging, education.
I was really upset that I didn't get matched to my only two choices but after a few hours of being sad and trying to put pieces together, I was able to move on. I was really upset that I would have to do this whole process over again in 12 months and I was even more upset that I could not be in the field which I am so very passionate about.
Life was back to normal on Tues and Wed and I was looking forward to the Iron Girl event and seeing my parents that weekend. I figured I would improve my volunteer hours in clinical and food service and hopefully have a better chance next year when I applied again for the VA. My GPA is over 3.5 in both my Masters and Dietetic program so unless the VA seeks perfection, I had a feeling that my "dietetic" experience was not up-to-par.
Well, Thurs morning came around and I knew that the matching site would post internship programs that didn't fill up. I had a feeling that nothing would be open but I woke up at 4:30am and saw that over 10 programs still had openings. Most of the programs offered Master degrees with the internship (most internships are 8-12 months with Master degrees taking up to 2 years) but there were several distance programs available. I started contacting internships (that I felt I would gain the most from) in order to not miss an opportunity to get into a distance internship (where I would get to pick the preceptors to help me fulfill my 1200 hrs of dietetic field work, including clinical, community and food service work, based on the programs requirements). I wasn't really sure how the second round matching worked so rather than stressing myself out and re-doing applications to apply for any and ever internship, I focused on the distance internships that I thought would be best for me. Although I would take an on-site internship over distance, I really wanted to start an internship as soon as possible Because my dietetic information is still fresh in my head....and I am READY to write a book and cookbook, but not without that RD (and education) behind me. I mean, I read a lot of journals and enjoy keeping up with current research but after finishing my dietetic program in Aug '09, I'm eager to apply my education to real-world settings, specifically in the areas of clinical nutrition and food service/production.
To make a long story short, I faxed my application to Marywood University (distance) which is geared towards wellness nutrition and it even has a Master's track for sports nutrition!! I had to hop on the road before 12pm in order to get to my parents (4 hr drive), drop off Campy and head to Tampa to speak at the mall by 6:30pm. It was approaching 11:30 when I was still trying to fax my application!!!
It finally faxed and before I left, I called the director, to confirm if she received my faxed application form. She said "Yes" and with me on the phone, she said she should would look over my application while she had me on the phone to ask questions. She asked me about my background, my education, my goals and if I applied to other internships and when I told her that I heard from the Tampa Va that I was one of their top candidates, with an excellent application but just didn't get matched up due to the competitiveness of the internship, she said that she would be happy to accept me in the program!
With 4,169 students applying for dietetic internship positions this spring (2010) only 2,076 receiving a match I was counting my blessings that I didn't give up after not being matched on Mon.
I really can't believe it! I am really happy that I didn't give up but you know, that isn't my personality or part of my character. I have no trouble saying "I can't do it" but I never say and will never say "I quit". I just don't quit what I start. Well, I guess everything works out for a reason. I am really excited about this opportunity but the next thing for me to do is to find/confirm some of my preceptors (that part makes me a little nervous but I hope that I can find enough local dietitians to help me with this internship). I have a few on board so I hope everything works out. I can start the program in July/Aug this summer and I should be finished in 10 months (if all goes well). I am just happy that I can continue my education and more than anything, learn and be in real-world settings! :)
I never thought that I would love becoming a dietitian. Knowing the competitiveness of the internship program and the difficult material presented before applying to internships (I haven't yet thought about passing the national exam) I give RD's A LOT of credit and I have so much respect for people who pursue this credential.
There are a lot of nutrition guru's out there that do not want to take the time or spend the money (this internship will cost me over $12,000!!!) to become a licensed RD and because of that, there are a lot of "personalities" out there presenting their own personal views on nutrition with no solid education (or credential) to back them up.
Well, I can now continue my journey of becoming a Registered Dietitian and I can not wait for the next year to soak up every minute of this internship.