Earlier this year, Sydney Withers tweeted, “SO excited to announce I have been placed with @GRHospitalKW as a dietetic intern!!”
And two months into her internship at Grand River Hospital, it’s clear her excitement remains high.
Food is important to health. This is an era of increasingly complex diseases and health conditions. Hospitals depend on registered dietitians to help guide patients in eating that supports their recovery or manages chronic health needs.
GRH is among 14 hospitals in Canada to host a post-graduate dietetic internship program. Every year, five interns take part in hands-on rotations and research opportunities to further their training as they become entry-level dietitians.
Sydney brings a strong interest in the healing properties of food as well as an applied science degree in human nutrition to the next step of her education at GRH. She’s enjoying taking her classroom experience and applying it to support patients in their recovery.
Sydney has great respect for GRH’s registered dietitians who are providing her and her four internship colleagues lots of advice and support.
How did you decide that you wanted to become a dietitian?
Through a lot of volunteering that I did during my undergraduate degree. I volunteered with physiotherapists in a hospital setting in the summer after my first year. After discussing my academic interests with them, they introduced me to the dietitian and I really connected with her.
I am drawn to the role of a dietitian in a hospital setting because food is so important to recovery and disease management. Food has the ability to help heal a patient post-operatively or aid in chronic disease management. I enjoy taking the science and translating it into something applied to help patients and clients.
What’s the internship been like so far for you?
It’s so different from reading a textbook and writing an exam! It’s my first experience counselling patients and using motivational interviewing skill which we learned about in school.
Counselling is like a dance. You’re partnering with the client to form a helping relationship and understanding whether they are ready to make changes to improve their health.
So far, your experience in the hospital has involved rotations in surgery and the adult diabetes education centre. What have you learned in each area?
On the surgery floor, I was working with pre- and post-operative patients. This involved a lot of calculations for intravenous feeds and teaching patients eating patterns based on their post-operative needs.
In diabetes education, I’ve been exposed to more counselling. I discuss general eating patterns with clients and help them fit carbohydrate counting and label reading skills into their routines. It’s been quite a transition from the more numbers-based inpatient role to the one-on-one counselling role.
What’s it like working with registered dietitians who are mentoring you?
The preceptors at Grand River are so supportive and encouraging. They seem to remember what it’s like to be an intern and have the pressure of thinking we need to know all the answers. They’re willing to lend a helping hand each step of the way which has really helped me transition into my role as an intern comfortably.
How has this experience so far influenced your goal of becoming a dietitian?
There’s always something to learn, and I am so eager to see what the rest of my year at Grand River Hospital has to offer. I’m excited to be in this placement because I’m learning every day from my patients and clients.
Nutrition is an ever-changing field. I have seen how this has an influence on the work dietitians do with clients. Someone will come into the office having received education years before. Resources may have changed since then, so our role is to translate the new knowledge into something practical they can implement in their daily routine.