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Rachel Bishop, MS, RDN, CD, graduated from the MSN/DPD program in 2014, and completed the Bastyr dietetic internship in 2015. She's now a clinical dietitian at Overlake Hospital, and the founder of Food and Flow Sports Nutrition and Wellness. Here, Rachel shares with us some secrets to staying balanced throughout the internship process, what a day in the life of a clinical dietitian looks like, and a little bit about her passion for sports nutrition.
Liz Sullivan: Tell us a little bit about your path and what brought you to Bastyr.
Rachel Bishop: Nutrition is a second career for me. I had taken time off from working in research to be a stay at home mom and decided that, when I went back to work, I would do something that I was passionate about and that what nutrition. I knew I wanted a master's degree so I applied to UW and Bastyr. I really wanted to go to Bastyr because I firmly believe in food as medicine and it was the best decision I have made in my professional life.
LS: We're all in the process of applying to internships now and most of us will be entering one in the next year sometime. What advice do you wish you'd been given before entering the internship?
RB: Do some soul searching and try to find out, realistically, what kind of internships are right for you. I started applying for distance internships but realized early on that those just weren't right for me so I made the decision to apply only to the internships close to me. This came with the understanding that, if I didn't get an internship, I would work for a year and then reapply as many times as necessary until I got one. Also, have as many people as possible read your personal statements. This is the one thing that really makes you stand out from the other candidates. You have amazing resources at Bastyr to help you with this so use them.
LS: How did you stay balanced during graduate school and the internship?
RB: It is so important to take some time for yourself. It's something Debra has said since day one and she's 1000% right. Separate yourself from school and applications at least a couple times a week (more if you can), even if it's only for a short period of time. I would go mountain biking most afternoons for an hour and half and it allowed me to re-center myself. I would think about applications or exams while I did it and it allowed me to work out my stress and anxiety to the point where they were manageable.
LS: Who have been the biggest inspirations for your career and why?
RB: My wife has been my biggest inspiration. She has her MBA so she understands how difficult getting a master's degree can be. She understands the importance of hard work to get to where you want and she has supported me wholeheartedly since my first day of school. She picked up the slack with our son when I was unable to be present for school events or when I couldn't read bedtime stories because of study sessions. She encouraged me to follow my dream and never made me feel bad for devoting so much time and energy into myself and my education. When I was ready to throw in the towel, she gently reminded me of how much I loved what I was doing and helped me keep my eye on the prize. Most importantly, she kept me grounded and sane and that alone was worth everything.
LS: What does the day to day of a clinical dietitian look like?
RB: Each hospital is a bit different but my day usually begins with reviewing patient charts to get caught up to speed on who is being seen that day and what's being done for them and how they're doing. After reviewing charts and establishing a plan of action for each patient, I head to rounds up in the ICU. These are the most critical patients and we round with a multidisciplinary care team to all discuss what the care plan should be and to make sure we are all on the same page. After that, I go and see the patients that are on my list that day. It can range from a basic nutrition screen to diabetes education to calculating tube feeds.
LS: What are the best parts of being in a clinical setting? What are the most challenging parts?
RB: The best part of being in a clinical setting is the different kinds of patients you see on a regular basis. You are always being challenged, both with the complexity of patients and the need to keep up to date on the latest changes. The most difficult part is that you rarely, if ever, find out what happens when patients leave the hospital unless they are re-admitted. You put all this hard work and effort into someone and you never really know what the ultimate outcome is.
LS: What are the most important skills we should develop if we want to work in a clinical setting?
RB: Being able to support the decisions you make using current research and working with people from different modalities are some of the most important skills to have. It's important to be able to prioritize since the workload can get pretty heavy.
LS: What is the most important thing someone wanting to enter clinical dietetics should know?
RB: There is a lot of science and lab work involved in clinical dietetics. You will need to understand lab values and what those values mean for the short term and long-term outcomes as well as physiology. If you are interested in clinical work, see if you can do a renal rotation during your internship. Here, you will learn a multitude of lab values and how those can affect patients' nutrient needs.
LS: I've heard that clinical experience is a great jumping off point to other careers in food service or community nutrition. What's your opinion on the best way to navigate a career path as a dietitian?
RB: When you get out of your internship you will probably just want to get a job anywhere that will hire you! I think clinical work really does set you up for success in other aspects of nutrition because of the incredible amount of knowledge that you will accumulate while in the hospital. At Overlake, the dietitians work closely with the kitchen staff so we use our food service knowledge as well as working closely with many cultures and segments of the population.
LS: Your other passion is sports nutrition. Can you tell us how you got into that and what's engaging about it?
RB: I've been an athlete my whole life and nutrition was a huge part of helping me stay competitive in whatever sport I was doing. Sports nutrition is just a natural joining of two of my favorite things. It's also very specific and individual so what works for one person might not work for others and that is very challenging.
LS: What's a common sports nutrition myth that you want to dispel?
RB: Carbs are not bad!!!! I see so many athletes, especially women, and many of them think that carbs make people fat. It is important to address this right off the bat since carbs are the most important fuel source for athletes.
Interview with Rachel Bishop, MS, RDN, CD