Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Road to R.D.

Over the years, The Brick House has been a place to share encouragement, tips, and how-tos, therefore, it only seems fitting to give a little info about my adventure into Dietetics that is only just beginning. As I was researching the field, I read many student blogs that were extremely insightful, so if you are considering a career in nutrition/dietetics, this may serve as a launch pad for you!

Let me give you a little background. My husband and I married shortly after I graduated from high school with honors in business and within our first year of marriage, my oldest son was born. I entered college, initially interested in computers, but then switched my focus to business. After a year, we relocated to Central Florida and soon baby #2 and baby #3 came along. I knew early on that I would homeschool them, so my days were filled with teaching them how to learn (I’d rather not fill their bucket, but rather, teach them to learn… but that is another blog post altogether). After 10 years of marriage, my husband and I began an installation business that is now in its 10th year. In effort to assist him to the best of my ability, I took several classes through Daytona State Center for Business and Industry and Daytona State College Small Business Development Center. These resources were invaluable to the establishment of the business. A family based business offered several opportunities for our family. Aside from an income source, each of my children have been able to help their dad prepare for projects, learn a trade and be exposed to the entrepreneurial lifestyle (both good and bad). 

When the economy threatened to squeeze the life out of our business, I reenrolled in college. My oldest son began dual enrollment as a high school/homeschooler, my daughter was a freshman and my youngest was in 7th grade, all homeschooling through Florida Virtual School. This offered some flexibility for me to study, work part time all the while trying not to lose my mind!

Initially, it seemed that the best thing for me to study was business management. During the second semester back, I took Biology (for non-science majors) with a professor who held a Bachelor’s in nutrition. He was assigned to teach this class in effort to convert non-science majors into science majors. It worked. While I always enjoyed reading about nutrition on a casual, need-to-know basis, I soon realized that I absolutely LOVED learning about the impact of nutrition on health. By this point I had begun cleaning up my diet and getting active, resulting in about 40+ lbs of weight loss. 

I quickly began researching the nutrition profession. Soon I discovered that the credentials for being able to work in the area of nutrition took dedication as well as commitment to a competitive education path. Quoting the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “All registered dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. This is a distinction that can matter a great deal to people’s health.” The time investment of education would only be well spent in a program that would allow me to serve the public as a qualified professional.  So I was on the hunt for an accredited program that would meet all of the needs of our family.

The Academy’s website offers links to the accredited programs throughout the country and explains the different programs. One option is to enroll in a Didactic Program (Bachelor or Master’s) plus internship. The other option is a Coordinated program that allows students to complete the didactic studies and complete supervised practice hours within their Bachelor or Master’s program. There were several blogs that I read in which students who had completed the Didactic program were having an extremely difficult time being placed in an internship. Only about 50% of the applicants get placed. This seemed like a very scary position, because without the internship time, the students were unable to take the Registered Dietitian’s exam. I called into the Academy and discussed the options with an advisor, and based on where we live, there were no local programs of either kind available. They suggested that I look for distance programs, and specifically recommended Eastern Michigan University Distance Coordinated Program in Dietetics. There were some huge advantages to this program.

·         I could stay in my area and do my coursework online
·         The science pre-requisites could be taken locally and transferred in (upon approval)
·         Because it is a fully online program, out of state tuition cost do not apply
·         It allowed me to become familiar with local dietitians while I secured preceptors for the program

In a traditional internship program, the field time is already prearranged by the internship program director. This very unique program allows the student to make contact with potential preceptors and establish supervised work hour rotations. I will come back to this in a bit.

The science of food...
So, with all of this information in hand, it seemed that I had a long road of science prerequisites to fulfill, and it seemed very daunting. So many of my classmates were already on a science tract, and I’m over here with a handful of business experience. Folks, my prayer life greatly increased as I worked my way through chemistry, organic chemistry, anatomy & physiology, microbiology and biochemistry. My friends heard me cry and whine all the way through.

During the summer of 2013, I attended Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Annual Symposium. It was so enriching. The information sessions were dynamic and I felt right at home. During a meet and greet session, a dietitian from my county gave me the number of someone in our area who was developing a local dietitian’s chapter. That put the ball in play with regard to securing preceptors for the program. She will never know how valuable that 10 minute conversation was to me.

In January of 2014, just 18 months after I set out to complete the prerequisites, I was sending in my application, which was a 3 ring binder full of requirements. At 37 years old, I was actually applying to my very first program of study, with a pocket full of life experience. The program has just 20 slots available each fall, and 82 students applied.  I was slightly nervous, but God opened so many doors up to this point, that I had a peace in the fact that I only wanted to do what HE wanted me to do, and if this was it, I would earn a spot. To be entirely honest, I am supremely humbled that He has opened so many very specific opportunities for me. It has been the sort of journey that I literally felt as if He walked every step with me, grabbed ahold of each and every door that we encountered and held it opened as I walked through... My most important task? Well, of course, it was to be WILLING to walk through the door. That required getting out of my comfort zone, breaking out of the mental box that I had myself in, and believing that He can do all things in me when I am willing to calm myself into His presence. 

Mid-March, my son trotted in with the mail and I mindlessly begin opening the letters. I look down to read the details of the letter in my hand and see that I had been accepted into the program! There was a mighty shout in the house that day!

So here I am, in May 2014, just a couple of months before I begin the program in late August, anxiously awaiting the experience of the next 2 years. While I feel like I have learned so much just in the preparation, I have not even begun yet.

Why did I choose nutrition/dietetics? Let me count the reasons:

·         I love food
·         I love nutrition
·         I love people
·         I love helping people
·         I love being a positive part of peoples’ growth and recovery
·         I love that God has created us in such a magnificent way, and that He has created food sources for us to specifically meet EVERY SINGLE nutritional need that we have.

In closing, while I am not YET an expert in the area of nutrition, I hope to share some things along the way that may spark a desire for others to take ahold of the great benefits that come from placing a priority on eating well.



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