August 6, 2012

What it means to be an RD

I don’t know if I can be “becomingginger” anymore.  I think I’ve arrived, finally.  I just updated my profile to reflect my newly received credentials:  RD (registered dietitian).  One day, one test, one piece of paper - but five years leading up to it.  When I first started on my journey to become a nutrition expert, I certainly did not realize all it would take to achieve my goal.  I started with Nutrition 101 and basic chemistry - the first of many prerequisites required to even apply to the Masters of Science in Nutrition program.  People are constantly surprised:  "You have to take chemistry to do nutrition?!”  Yup - nutrition IS chemistry.  Biochemistry to be exact. 

So, I plugged along through my gen chem, O chem and biochem series.  I did calculus.  I memorized all the bones and muscles in the body in anatomy and physiology.  I took psyc and counseling classes.  Finally, I got accepted to my nutrition program at Bastyr and felt so relieved.  Bastyr is known for being a rigorous program.  Besides the traditional nutrition classes required by all accredited programs, we took Supplements, Whole Foods Cooking, and Organic Gardening classes.  We worked in the outpatient clinic counseling patients and we were required to have 300 hours of volunteer work outside of school.  This was all in preparation to getting accepted to a dietetic internship.  That means 1200 supervised practice hours (90% of them unpaid) with a 50% acceptance rate.  I was willing to move across the country to a city where I knew no one and work for free for a year - I got accepted to Hines VA Hospital and I was so relieved. 

Each internship program has a different focus but there are similar requirements to all.  Hines has a clinical, Medical Nutrition Therapy focus and we had rotations through surgery, the ICU, dialysis unit, long term care, cancer, cardiac, outpatient, and pediatric units.  We also went off campus into the community and worked for HIV clinics, eating disorder centers, and High School counseling.  We spent weeks in the hospital kitchen tasting food, testing temperatures, analyzing safety, running training meetings and throwing special events.  On top of it, we completed individual original research projects - my final paper hit 70 pages.  The 10 of us interns ran a community event including a hospital-wide food drive and educational classes geared towards homeless Veterans.  This was not just my experience - this is the experience that Registered Dietitians in this country have.  This is the sacrifice we make and the education that backs up our expertise on the subject of nutrition. 

When I passed the RD exam - a 125 question test based on topics ranging from food service, management, inventory, kitchen equipment, biochemistry, community nutrition, tube feeds, different disease states, legislation (among many others)  - I stared at the piece of paper:  "Congratulations!  You have passed the Registration Examination for Registered Dietitians".  Thank God.  

When I chose the name “becomingginger” in my Writing in Food and Nutrition class the first year of grad school, I had such a long way to go.  I was still learning about the science of nutrition.  At that point, I had barely counseled a patient.  I had never worked in a hospital.  I had a lot of book knowledge, but no practical experience.  At that point, I couldn’t give you good advice about eating healthy for your pregnancy, how to feed your baby, which tube feed formula is best for a burn victim, what supplements are safe when taking certain medications, what a cardiac diet looks like, how to eat during chemo, how to recover from a workout, where to turn for help with your eating disorder or the different qualities of soy vs. cow vs. coconut vs. almond milk.  I didn’t know how to cook very well.  Now I can do all these things thanks to the experiences I had along the way.  I’ll never be done learning about nutrition – no one ever will because it is an ever changing topic based on research and new findings.  But I think that I’m done “becoming” ginger for now – I’m pretty sure I’ve achieved what I set out to find.    


  1. You have put this perfectly! Your determination and drive is what got you through this journey. I am so happy to say "congratulations, you did it" Go girl go!!!!

  2. This comment is so late, but WAY TO GO Ginger. What a journey!! Congratulations!! I love your passion & I'm sure you will help so many people throughout your career!!