A Commentary on Eastern Michigan University’s
Distance Coordinated Program in Dietetics
When I first started exploring the idea of going into the field of nutrition, I had a rather large
|Study, study, study...|
In my previous blog post, Road to R.D., I shared the history of my decision to study nutrition and how I selected Eastern Michigan University’s Distance Coordinated Program in Dietetics. Since that post, I have successfully graduated from the program with my B.S. in Dietetics, Summa Cum Laude, I have successfully passed the Registered Dietitian Exam and obtained my State of Florida license to practice as a Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist.
For those who are interested in pursuing the field of dietetics, you might find my experience to be helpful when planning your path… and so I write…
In the last post, I left off right when I had been accepted into the dietetics program, which was a 2-year (Junior & Senior year) program. The Coordinated Program at EMU can also be a Master’s level program, including additional coursework, but also provides the required ACEND approved curriculum just the same. Upon completion, this qualifies the student to sit for the Commission on Dietetic Registry board exam. To give you an idea of how this program works, all of the coursework is completed online while the 1200 hour supervised practice requirement is coordinated by the student in facilities local to the student. This requires making connections with local dietitians in each of the required fields and ensuring that the proper facility agreements are completed. I cannot say enough good things about this program, especially if you are not in the vicinity of a university with a dietetics program. The distance option is so convenient. However, this program is made for the detail oriented, self-motivated, technologically savvy student. If you can learn via web lectures, power-point presentations and can navigate Office software, Adobe and such, you can do this program.
My program began the Fall of 2014, but beforehand, we took a prep class, Fundamentals of Nutrition Therapy to get us ready for some of the medical terminology and the nutrition assessment process. This was helpful because when the classes began in September, we had a brief “boot-camp” prior to our 1-day per week clinical schedule and we needed to be prepared. The striking difference between the coordinated program and a typical internship is that we were learning all of the didactic material at the same time that we were completing our supervised practice hours, whereas, in an internship, the didactic work would have been completed before the student ever steps foot in a healthcare facility. The benefit that I saw in the Coordinated Program is that I was able to put in practice what I had learned right away, thereby solidifying my knowledge immediately. Initially, there was a bit of a learning curve because some of the RDs were not fully aware of my field knowledge base and anticipated that I would have the same understanding as an intern who had completed the didactic work. With a little clarification, they all were more than happy to adjust their method of instruction.
The first semester of the program was split between Nutrition Therapy (in an acute care setting) and Foodservice Management. My Nutrition Therapy Supervised Practice Hours were at a ~280 bed hospital and my Foodservice Management Supervised Practice Hours were completed at a ~70 bed long term care facility. Both of these locations were utilized for future rotations; I completed the long-term care supervised practice hours at the LTC facility and at the hospital, I completed half of a semester in Foodservice Management and again for Nutrition Therapy II in the final semester. In the first Spring (EMU called it WINTER), in addition to the LTC rotation, I worked with an outpatient office which was part of a local hospital. One of my special interests is in breastfeeding and lactation counseling, so as an added bonus, that hospital was hosting a weekly breastfeeding support group which was great experience working with mommies as they provided the first nutrition to their babies. It was a highlight!
During the second Fall, the focus was turned towards Community Nutrition in which the Supervised Practice hours were completed in a WIC facility in addition to 1-day events with Head Start, a Senior Center and an elementary school. Additionally, the second fall included a specialty rotation, in which I completed hours with an Oncology Dietitian who also was the Sports Dietitian for a local university and who was a monthly guest on a local talk radio program. Additional hours were completed with a private practice dietitian.
|Study on the beach, study in the car, study study over here, study everywhere...|
The coursework covered Nutrition Therapy I, II, II & IV, Food Systems Management, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Entrepreneurship, in addition to Seminar in Dietetics, Micronutrient and Macronutrient Metabolism, Food and Culture and Nutrition of the Lifecycle.
In all honesty, I would have never guessed that a dietitian would have so much training in Foodservice or that dietitians play such a vital role in critical care. Prior to my experience, it was difficult for me to handle any medically invasive intervention, including needles and wounds, but my preceptors were so amazing and they coordinated many valuable experiences for me such as being in the operating room during a quadruple bypass surgery, a gastric sleeve operation which included a cholecystectomy, I watched gastric band assessments, a bronchoscopy and I shadowed a wound nurse. To my great surprise, I was able to attend each event without any issue, primarily because I focused on the anatomical process that was taking place. In each setting, I was able to see the importance of a dietitian in either the prevention or the treatment of the condition. Not enough can be said about how important preceptors are to the dietetic student/interns. My preceptors went out of their way to ensure that I gained the required knowledge and experience. Early in the process of preparing for the program, I began to volunteer with a newly forming local dietetics group and the dietitians from that group became my mentors, cheerleaders and now I can call them friends. For the upcoming membership year, I have the privilege to serve as the President-Elect of that same group.
Additionally, the EMU Dietetics Program Director, Lydia and the Clinical Coordinator, Diane, were absolutely amazing. When I think of all that had to go into preparing the students, keeping us on track with dates and requirements, all via the wonders of the internet, I am in awe with their dedication to the success of future dietitians.
Graduation was a sweet time for the distance students who were able to travel to Michigan for the ceremony as well as a celebration ceremony thrown by Lydia and Diane. That weekend was the first time that I was able to meet any of the professors and staff as well as the other students who attended. For over 4 years, I had been in communication with the EMU staff, either preparing for the program or during, so meeting everyone face-to-face was a momentous event. I am so thankful for the opportunity to attend.
|#EMU Class of 2016!|
If you are considering the field of dietetics and you have questions about EMU’s program, please leave me a note in the comments and I will be glad to help.
In a future post, I will share how I prepared for the RD exam and what I used to study.
Tasha Brickhouse, RD, LD/N
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