It seems just like yesterday I was finishing my dietetic internship and passing my RD exam. I thought all along that I would fall in love with outpatient clinical dietetics, but my internship left me surprised at how much I enjoyed the inpatient setting instead.
Outpatient dietitians are more of what you think of when you think of an RD. Whenever I tell people I’m a dietitian, they always make a joke about how I tell people what to eat all day. Inpatient dietitians are kind of the opposite… we try to make sure people are meeting their nutritional needs while they’re in the hospital. Very rarely do I talk to a patient about weight loss. If you want to read all about what an inpatient RD does then check out this post
It has been a little over 2 years since I became an inpatient clinical RD and it’s still my preferred area of dietetics. Here are the top reasons why I love it so much!
Same routine but still lots of change
I have a type A personality and love being on a schedule and into a good routine. That is part of why I really didn’t feel like school nutrition was a good fit for me… I would never have any idea what I was walking into each day at work! (sorry, don’t mean to get into too much about school nutrition but one day I had to drop what I was doing and meet a milk truck on the side of the road to deliver cases of milk to a school!)
An inpatient dietitian days are pretty routine… go to rounds, see patients and chart. But I recognize that variety is the spice of life, and that’s why I like that I am constantly seeing new patients and learning about different medical conditions! No day is the same even though my routine doesn’t really change.
I love an interdisciplinary team approach
I have learned SO much by working with a team of medical professionals. From doctors to physical therapists to nurses and pharmacists, every profession has a different perspective that can help dietitians become better at their jobs. I also think it’s important to remember that nutrition is just one piece to the big picture of health and wellness. Of course *I* think it’s an extremely important piece but working with an interdisciplinary team has really shown me how important all pieces are.
I like to make my own structure throughout the day
Most inpatient RDs have the flexibility to see patients how they want. You could see them all in the morning and chart in the afternoon. You could see a bunch at a time, chart, see some more, chart, etc. You could see one at a time and chart on each as you go. It’s up to you! I like how I can change things up as I see fit and do what works for me.
You can show compassion
I wondered how I would feel being around sick people all the time during my clinical rotations of my internship. But once I got to the hospital, I realized this: everyone gets sick at some point. We all will probably have to go to the hospital or visit a loved on in the hospital throughout our lives. Being sick and even death and dying are a part of life.
Having the opportunity to be in that situation and show compassion and understanding can be incredibly rewarding. If a patient is sick and making a small modification to their diet will make them feel better, then I feel like I have made a little bit of a difference to that person.
Puts life into perspective
The absolute best part of working in a hospital is that it puts life into perspective. I am just one person in this big world. There are so many people out there from all walks of life. It is a great thing to constantly be reminded of.
You can leave work at work and there’s less to worry about
Once your shift is over, you can pretty much leave work at work. Unlike school nutrition where I took work home on a regular basis, I usually don’t have to do anything work-related at home unless I’m on call. Of course I worry about patients but I am not staying up until midnight cranking out paperwork.
I only have school nutrition as a basis of comparison but I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off of my shoulders when I switched from the schools to the hospital. I had a constant running to-list of items that might have even been a year out when I was a school RD (menus, taste tests, promotions, staff training, etc.) and I felt like my mind was always running. Clinical has been a nice change!
Love all things medical/clinical
I am really fascinated my research, health care and the ever changing field of medicine. Talking about a bowel obstruction over dinner? Yes please. Discussing potassium in TPNs over a drink with some RD friends? Of course!
I think the moral of my story is to find what you’re really passionate about and go for that. I think as new grads we are taught to find the first/best job that we can get. But at the end of the day, if you are not passionate about your job then you’re not going to feel fulfilled. I’m glad I found something that is not just a paycheck for me!
Dietitians / RDs to Be: What field of dietetics do you love the most? Do you feel like it has changed from what you thought you’d like?
Are you passionate about your job?
This was a super helpful read! I think the hardest thing about being a clinical dietitian for me would be not being able to really get to know my patients. I love the variety and that you get to see so many different things though! After shadowing, I definitely could see myself as a clinical dietitian, even though my heart is in counseling.
This is a great post! Thank you so much for your positivity. I am searching around for jobs now and didn’t think that I would want to do inpatient, but I just had an interview and we’ll see what happens! You never know where you’ll start out!