I wasn’t sure whether to post about this at all, but I know that some of my friends and relatives may be asking. Twice a year, prospective dietetic interns go through the application process and engage in computer matching in hopes of being placed at an internship site where they can complete the standardized training required before they may take the RD exam.

While the field of dietetics has grown tremendously in recent years, programs have not grown to meet the increased number of students interested in becoming registered dietitians. As a result, these internship programs are now incredibly competitive. Last November, the acceptance rate was only 44% nationwide—that leaves 56% of applicants, many of them fully qualified, out in the cold. Fortunately, students can apply multiple times, and they may have a better shot in the spring semester, when more programs accept new interns.

There are many sides to this “internship shortage” issue, and it affects students and RDs in various kinds of ways. I actually was a contributing writer on a piece in the Winter 2010 issue of the ADA Times titled, “Creating Our Competition: Why the Dietetics Internship Shortage is as Important to your Future as it is to the Practitioners of Tomorrow.”

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My sister's new tattoo—soothing words in trying times...

For that piece, I interviewed several students about their experiences with multiple applications and rejections. At the time, I was a year away from going through that process myself, and I was really hoping to escape the frustration. Their pain lit a fire under me to push myself and work as hard as I could.

But alas. Last night I logged on and was met with an impersonal, “I regret to inform you…”

Who regrets to inform me? The computer system that matched applicants to sites? Awesome. Seriously. Needless to say, the writer in me appreciates the irony of the fact that I helped write the article that exposed the internship shortage and yet went unmatched myself this first time around.

To my credit, I was only able to apply to one site this matching period, so I know I shouldn’t feel too bad, as the odds were insanely long. Still, it’s hard when all your work, all your best efforts, just aren’t good enough to get you what you’d set your sights on. It just goes to show that good grades, clinical experience, and a sincere essay aren’t always good enough. That I’ve never once landed a position I interviewed for in my black suit should also be a tip-off. Note to self: go shopping and learn to walk in heels.

I have a chance to apply to a lot more sites in February, and I have a lot of really great Plan B options to put into action. My mother always says that when the universe closes one door, it opens a window, and while my momentary urge is to throw things and scream, “Well then this had better be some f-ing window!” I know she’s right. Taking fewer masters courses and not starting the internship this spring will allow me more time for some of the projects I’ve been putting off.

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