By: Abigail Stultz
If you are familiar with the musical (and/or film) 9-to-5, you’ll understand when I say I felt a little bit like Judy Bernley upon starting my first dietetic internship rotation: lost, overwhelmed, unsure. It sounds silly, but truly a few of the songs from this show have lines that have become my mantra in life. I use this reference because I find the show to be overall uplifting and empowering, sans the dramatized and satirical storyline. I am talking about Judy’s stirring character development, the overarching themes of self-discovery, and the power of mindset to change difficult circumstances. For those unfamiliar with 9-to-5, it is a movie turned Broadway musical that follows the main character, Judy Bernley. Judy finds herself in a situation where she has to go to work, though she hadn’t before (this takes place in the 40’s). Feeling lost and defeated, she eventually befriends two other women who in the end team up to rise above the story’s villain. As the plot thickens, so does Judy’s skin: she learns to rise up from adversity by refusing to succumb to failure and discouragement, thereby harnessing the capabilities and power she possessed all along. And, as expected, she goes on to live a successful, fulfilling life. While there is no villain in my internship rotation story, I still can relate to how Judy adapted to the workplace and how she embraced her inner strength in 9-to-5.
Beginning the dietetic internship was a larger adjustment than I anticipated. I expected my learning in rotations would be structured similarly to how it was in college: a pre-scheduled list of projects, assignments and experiences. Now that I am just over a month into the internship and finished my first rotation, I realize why my expectations were not only incorrect, but, quite frankly, unrealistic. The lack of the structure I was so used to was a big adjustment and the reason I initially felt lost and unsure. Unlike college professors, whose job is specifically to support and educate students, my preceptors are working professionals with personal job responsibilities. They have graciously volunteered some of their time to supervise my practice hours and be a mentor, not a teacher. That’s not to say I did not get an orientation to the site or my preceptor wasn’t available to help when I needed. I simply mean as far as projects, assignments and experiences go, the only “structure” I was given were the ACEND competency requirements and UMD dietetic internship program requirements. How I completed these requirements and what I would take with me beyond this program was entirely in my hands.
“What to do and where to start?” (1)
My first rotation was Food Service Management for a 6-week duration. My partner, Alexis, and I were placed at Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville, MD. Our preceptor was the head chef of the community’s largest restaurant on campus. He had never taken on dietetic interns before, nor had we ever been dietetic interns!
“Still I have to take a chance, putting fear and doubt aside, had no warning in advance, nothin’ left to do, but try… But I just might make it work!” (1)
The first week was full of uncertainties; the entirety of each day was not spent doing hands on things and our preceptor didn’t assign us a list of tasks, which as I aforementioned, came as a surprise to me. Again, we did have the support of our internship director, but we wanted to stand on our own feet as much as possible. We realized we needed to embrace the independence and get ourselves organized so that we could make the most of our opportunities and learn all we could during this rotation. We started thinking about the projects and began to plan, all the way down to which day we would ask our preceptor to meet with us to discuss our ideas.
“If you don’t take the reigns, it’s gonna stay the same, nothing’s gonna change if you don’t change it!” (2)
As the weeks went on, we became more comfortable in our role there and were more vocal in our needs. We finalized our big project idea, “Panini Paradise,” which ended up being a hit with the residents. We got in contact with the in-house TV studio and pushed to have a commercial filmed and broadcasted to the residents advertising our project. We got in contact with other staff in the community, outside of the dining area we were in, to set up meetings and discuss other aspects of food service management. For example, Alexis and I met with Amy and Tina from Human Resources, who talked to us about how the hiring and termination process operates at Charlestown. We even got involved with the catering team and helped to set up events! We not only developed a strong rapport with many of the other managers and staff and learned some valuable insight, but we got to know so many awesome people.
“There’s a great new world out there for those who care to claim it… A better day is on the way, only you can change it!” (2)
I think about these few quotes often, but the one above has truly become my perception of life. When things seem impossible, I remind myself that my future is in my hands. There is truly a lesson in every experience. With this rotation, I had all the resources I needed and quickly learned that I would get out of it as much as I put into it. I leave this rotation with an arsenal of “soft skills,” which includes utilizing creativity, problem-solving, adaptability and flexibility, and other teamwork skills. These skills are invaluable, and I challenge myself to continue to grow and develop them.
Not to mention, I learned how to skin a salmon filet and plate desserts like a pro!
(1) “I Just Might.” 9-to-5 – The Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording). Various Artists Soundtrack. 2009. Link: https://youtu.be/0vBssNHJUFE
(2) “Change It.” 9-to-5 – The Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording). Various Artists Soundtrack. 2009. Link: https://youtu.be/aFoDD-1Uggo