10 Tips for Successfully Navigating a Clinical Rotation

I can’t believe how fast my summer rotations flew by!

I’m currently headed to California for my advanced rotation, but I asked my preceptor and some of the dietitians I worked with this summer for tips on how to successfully navigate your clinical rotation.

10 Tips for Successfully Navigating a Clinical Rotation/Dietetic Internship

  1. Clarify start times: Many internships/rotations will have you rotate amongst different providers, and different providers may have different schedules. Make sure to email whoever you will be working with at least a week in advance to clarify when and where you will meet. If you plan on driving to your internship, make sure to ask about parking.
  2. Arrive on time: and if your start time is flexible arrive on the earlier side. While this may seem silly, few things look worse than coming in late every day.
  3. Stay on top of your requirements: it’s not your preceptor’s job to stay on top of the many requirements your school or program may have. Remember that most preceptors are not paid for this
  4. Take Notes: Write things down. No one wants to answer the same question over and over again, so carry a notepad and take notes. Even seemingly silly things like where to find pertinent information in the EMR.
  5. Limit cell phone use: One thing that seemed to come up when I polled preceptors was not being on cell phone while being trained, and generally limiting cell phone use.
  6. Check on dress code: Different hospitals have different dress codes. In general the dress code is going to be on the conservative side in a hospital setting, but some facilities may require students to wear a lab coat and other facilities may allow students to wear scrubs. Typically, expect to dress in business casual during most of your rotations and make sure you have comfy flats as you may spend a lot of time on your feet.
  7. Be respectful of preceptors’ opinions: Always remember that they are the experts and you are the student there to learn. It’s okay to ask questions, and present your preceptors with relevant research, but there’s a respectful way to do this. Having confidence is important in a clinical setting, but cockiness is detrimental. If given constructive criticism, make sure to respond appropriately, learn, and adjust. No one knows everything, and this is a learning opportunity for you.
  8. Be understanding of different styles and approaches: Everyone does things a little differently, especially when it comes to charting. You may be told to do things differently when working with different people, and if so, it’s important to be flexible rather than confrontational and try to adjust quickly.
  9. Study up for different rotations: Or at the very least read whatever papers your preceptors send you. While you obviously won’t have time to review every disease state and medical procedure for every rotation you do, make sure to at least brush up on some of the main conditions, meds, and treatments before starting a new specialty.
  10. Be interested or at least pretend to be: One thing I feel like I heard over and over again was this feeling that a few of the past interns didn’t seem interested in clinical nutrition. It’s hard as a preceptor to invest time and energy into a student that doesn’t seem interested. Even if you know clinical nutrition isn’t your thing, try to at least give it a chance, as you never know what you might enjoy, and apathy doesn’t make for the best intern.

Overall, as an intern, it’s easy to get overly self-critical, but it’s important to be patient with yourself. Find ways to relax at the end of the day and remember to take some time for yourself daily. Most of all, remember that this is a learning experience and there are aspects you may enjoy more than others.

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