Dietetic Internship: Eastern Illinois University

the administrative building at Eastern Illinois University
You know it’s a good school when their administrative building looks like a castle

Happy Tuesday! After working on this blog for a couple months, y’all I am so excited to finally bring an article to you that is part of the whole reason I started this site: telling you about dietetic internships! Today, I present to you an interview with Patrick H. Patrick’s a dietetic intern presently at Eastern Illinois University (EIU) in Charleston, Illinois. He’s spent the past year working towards earning his M.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics and the end of his internship.

Patrick didn’t always know he was going to be a dietitian. Originally, he planned to become an EMT through a certification program at a junior college. One of his courses, a basic health and wellness class, required him to write a report on a disease. He chose a GI disease. Patrick ended up diving so deeply into researching for the report that his professor recommended he think about dietetics instead! So he switched gears, got his Bachelor’s in Dietetics, and ended up at EIU.

Plot points in life can often be summarized in a sentence or two, but so much work went into Patrick’s journey. Before learning he would be attending Eastern Illinois University for his internship, he had to complete seven lengthy personalized applications to various schools/hospitals around the country, interview with EIU, and endure the stress of Match Day. The effort paid off though, when EIU accepted him into the program!

EIU Internship Background

The dietetic internship at Eastern Illinois University is an 18-month program with a Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. The program accepts 25 interns, 16-18 in the spring and 7-9 in the fall. About 55 students apply every year (the internship accepts 45% of applicants).

Besides time spent learning about foodservice, clinical, management, and community nutrition position, the internship concentrates on nutrition education. Students accepted to the program spend two semesters taking graduate courses, then almost eight months focusing on the different rotations.

EIU’s DI works with nine medical centers in the area. The school matches interns with those centers. The interns then spend nearly all of the hands-on portion of their internship at that property. Because of this, interns at EIU have time to develop relationships at their sites. This doesn’t mean your rotations become routine. “Any day could be different,” Patrick explains. “If there’s a really interesting patient with a rare condition or needs really specialized nutrition therapy, you can get pulled from whatever rotation you’re in to observe.”

Patrick’s Thoughts on Rotations

So far, Patrick has worked in a couple rotations at his site, including foodservice and management. He shared with me his experiences at those sites. With management, he told me, “So far, I’ve helped conduct an interview and followed the onboarding process, sat in on meetings regarding the joint commission visits and audit process, and other things in that realm.” As for foodservice, “You shadow all the positions in the kitchen and get a lot of hands on experience with preparing specialized meals, serving trays to patients, dietary restrictions, and other things of the sort.” Both rotations taught Patrick a lot and gave him the chance to see a lot of variety .

Out of all the rotations he’s completed, Patrick’s favorite has been clinical. He personally enjoys it because he gets to interact with patients and dietitians. Also he appreciates the mental challenge of applying medical nutrition therapy.

Internship Advice

As Patrick has some time left in his internship, he has some thoughtful advice for dietetics students considering an internship. For one thing, grad school requires you to grow in your skills (time management, communication, motivation) in a shift like what you may have experienced between high school and college. Your coursework may or may not be harder than college. However, it will definitely be more in-depth and require much more self-motivation. Your professors hold your hand even less than they did with your undergrad coursework (yes, it’s possible!). Patrick told me that being in grad school is more like having a job, in terms of workload and responsibilities. Surviving a graduate program is entirely possible, but you’ll need to grow and adapt in order to successfully finish.

Because of this, it’s important to have a solid emotional foundation going into a program. At EIU specifically, Patrick is part of the 50% of his class who aren’t from the Charleston-Mattoon area, let alone Illinois. If you’ve attended a school far from home, you may have already experienced this, but moving far away to start a new phase of life is stressful in and of itself. You might not have a support system in place when you arrive. Because of that you will likely be very close to your fellow interns as you’re experiencing the same things.

Wherever you end up grad school can be pretty taxing. So Patrick recommends that you manage your time so you have some time to relax. Self-care should be a priority! Keep in touch with friends and family. Carve out time for something you enjoy. And talk to your fellow interns or the school counseling services (which EIU does offer) about how you’re feeling too! Don’t push yourself too hard in the first half of the internship only to falter and burnout later. Keep your eyes on the prize and remember that it’s only about a year and a half.

What’s Next?

Finally, where does Patrick plan to go after he’s completed his internship at EIU? First, he wants to take the CDR exam to officially become a dietitian. He’s also waiting to hear from some prestigious PhD programs he applied to (best of luck to you, Patrick!) If not, he would like to work in the field of pediatric oncology.

Interested in learning more about Eastern Illinois University’s Dietetic Internship? Feel free to visit their site at
https://www.eiu.edu/dietetics/! Also, if you want a more detailed look at the specifics of their internship, look at EIU’s DI handbook.

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