How I Became an R.D.

I went back to school to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) and graduated in May 2015. Many of my posts during the four years I was in school focused mainly on what I was doing (and how much stress I was under). To read those posts, find them chronologically in the ‘Becoming an RD’ category.

For convenience, I’ve summed up the how and why of going back to school in this final school-related post.

I already had a degree (B.A. in Journalism from Penn State, 2005), so when I decided to go back to school to major in nutrition, I was shocked to find out it would take another four years. However, to become an RD, one must have all the undergraduate coursework and a supervised internship. See below for a list of my classes; much of the last year was spent in rotations at various healthcare facilities.

Fall 2011 (ECC)

CHEM 180 – University Chemistry 1

CHEM 181 – University Chemistry Lab

BIO 110 – Biology I

BIO 150 – Anatomy & Physiology

BIO 151 – Anatomy & Physiology Lab

PS 100 – Intro to Psychology

Spring 2012 (ECC)

CHEM 182 – University Chemistry 2

CHEM 183 – University Chemistry Lab

MT 141 – Statistics

BIO 130 – Microbiology

Summer 2012 (BSC)

NFS 102 – Intro to Nutrition (online)

Fall 2012 (BSC)

NFS 100 – Intro to Food Prep

NFS 110 – Applied Principles of Management in Dietetics/Food Service

NFS 200 – Applied Food Chemistry

NFS 230 – Intro to the Dietetics Profession

CHEM 321 – Principles of Organic Chemistry

Spring 2013 (BSC)

NFS 210 – Management in Dietetics

NFS 302 – Advanced Nutrition

NFS 315 – Lifecycle and Community Nutrition I

CHEM 322 – Biochemistry

Fall 2013 (BSC)

NFS 300 – Food Processing I

NFS 316 – Lifecycle and Community Nutrition II

NFS 401 – Medical Nutrition Therapy I

NFS 419 – Introduction to Clinical Practice

NFS 445 – Nutritional Care A (as part of the Coordinated Program)

Spring 2014 (BSC)

NFS 402 – Medical Nutritional Therapy II

NFS 405 – Principles of Nutrition Education

NFS 330 – Seminar on Complementary & Alternative Nutrition

NFS 310 – Personnel Management in Food Services

NFS 446 – Nutritional Care B (as part of the Coordinated Program)

Summer 2014 (BSC)

NFS 471 – Experiences in Food Service Systems in Healthcare (at Buffalo Mercy)

Fall 2014 (BSC)

NFS 403 – Medical Nutritional Therapy III

NFS 430 – Introduction to Nutrition Research

NFS 447 – Nutritional Care C (as part of the Coordinated Program)

Spring 2015 (BSC)

NFS 450W – Senior Practicum (Erie County Medical Center with Jennifer Oswald, RD)

NFS 451 – Specialty Practice (writing a business plan & nutrition communication projects)

NFS 448 – Nutritional Care D (Staff Relief at Buffalo General Hospital)

NFS 449 – Nutritional Care E (Long-Term Care at Genesee County Home in Batavia, NY)

So, why did I decide to go back to school?

My dream job is to be a health food writer.  Ultimately, I’d love to get published in something like Shape or Men’s Health or the like, but would be happy just helping people eat healthier food!  I’ve always seen myself writing long-term, but never quite knew what about.  It’s important to me to have a flexible job/career; we plan on having kids one day and I want to be able to be home more than I’m away.

It all started in early August 2011 when Kath revealed the “R.D. Me” section on her blog, which was basically how she decided to become a Registered Dietician and then how she did it.  I’d been reading her blog for about six months while also on my own weight-loss journey.

Actually, let’s back up.  Shortly after graduating with a Journalism degree from Penn State, I remember wishing I’d gone to school for nutrition.  Or creative writing. I just knew writing for a newspaper (at least in the traditional start-at-the-bottom-and-cover-the-midnight-fires-and-shootings) wasn’t it for me. I spent four years in the Air Force working in Public Affairs and as an Exec, using my degree some of the time and learning invaluable professional skills as well.  After I separated (because that wasn’t my passion, either), I took a year off to just relax and enjoy myself and not jump into anything right away.  I realize not working is a foreign concept to some, perhaps most, but Andrew really wanted me to and who’s going to argue with that?  I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I DID know I didn’t want to just jump into the first Air Force civilian job on base that came my way.  I’m so glad I took the time off; I worked out like crazy, made some great friends and spent a lot of time de-stressing.  And believe it or not, I was quite busy most of the time.  It’s just the kind of person I am.  Between working out, taking care of a husband, animals and our house, cooking, baking, reading, working occasionally at the library and having a full social calendar, I was rarely bored.

During this time (from the time I got stationed in Ohio until we left) I’d lost weight twice (both times by counting calories) and gotten more interested in health and wellness.  I started eating healthier than I’d ever before and worked out with more intensity and purpose as well.  My running improved.  I started cooking and baking as much as I could from scratch, and using only whole foods on my menus.  Making the healthiest food possible became a passion for me.  (I wish I could say Andrew was as excited about healthy eating as I was; I’m still working on him.)

One year was well on its way to two when all of a sudden we were moving.  I’d started to feel like something was missing from my life, a sense of purpose, perhaps, but I’m thankful I wasn’t working before the move from Ohio to New York.

However, after getting settled into our hotel in New York, all those feelings of purposelessness and wasted potential came back with a vengeance.  At least in Ohio I had had a house to take care of; now I was cramped in our hotel, procrastinating on getting my resume and clips together to start looking for freelance writing work.  I’d always talked about wanting to do something with my life, more than just raise our future children and be a housewife.  I wanted those things too; that’s why I always said I wanted to contribute financially without having a traditional fulltime job.  Andrew has been pushing me to go to cooking school for years, but I did’t want to be a chef.  I did’t want to have a bakery.  (I’m a morning person, but bakery-morning is too early!)

And that brings me to reading Kath’s R.D. post.  I spent an entire afternoon reading her post (and all the links throughout!) and ended up with a bit of a headache and feeling like there was no way I could do what she did.  She spent 2.5 years going to school and doing an internship, and it just seemed too hard and scary and overwhelming.

That’s when it hit me–I wanted to be a food writer.  All that school seemed so daunting until I envisioned my name with the initials “R.D.” after it in the author’s info section at the end of an article.  I grabbed the nearest magazine, flipped to the front section featuring the bios of the contributors and shoved it under Andrew’s nose.  “That’s what I want to be,” I said to him.  I wanted to be a health-food writer.  I think I always knew this is what I wanted to do, I just never knew how to say it.  I mean, who else actually READS the contributor’s bios in magazines but me?

And then I slept on it.  And kept thinking about it.  And started Googling about being a nutritionist.  And then I made an appointment to speak with the Nutrition Department Head at the University of Buffalo.  At first I thought maybe getting my master’s in Nutrition was the way to go, but after speaking with someone in the department there, I learned that to be an R.D., you’ve got to do the undergrad coursework.  I also learned that while becoming an R.D. would be a lot of “extra” work that I might not need as a food writer, it really is a good plan in terms of opening doors and being the “expert” in the field of nutrition.

Now that I’m finished with school, I’m so glad I did it. The four years I was in school were the hardest of our lives thus far—for sure—but also the ones in which I grew the most. I almost can’t believe it’s all over; I have those ‘R.D.’ initials after my name now, and it makes me so proud of all of my hard work.

I’m currently working as a nutritional counselor to students at Buffalo State (my alma mater!) and I write a monthly nutrition column for the East Aurora Advertiser. I also teach fitness classes at our local YMCA. I’m not a major freelance nutrition writer—yet—but I’ll be working on it.


I’m FINISHED!  (Except for that giant test I have to take at the end of the summer, but close enough.)

Last Saturday, myself and a handful of my classmates walked across the stage to receive our diplomas after FOUR LONG YEARS of academia. It’s crazy to think that it really took four years to get another bachelor’s degree (?!?!), and that it’s come and gone already. In some ways, it felt like an eternity; in others, I blinked.

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Mom and Andrew’s grandma joined us for the event at school.  The ceremony was 2 1/2 hours long and by the end, all I could think about was how thirsty I was!  A HUGE thank you to my mother, who did the most loving thing anyone could have at that moment – she got me some water. She also got yellow roses, my favorite 🙂  It felt like such a fuss over something I didn’t think was ‘that big of a deal,’ but in the end, it was nice.  These last four years were – hands down – the hardest of both mine and Andrew’s lives.  This calls for a celebration!

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After the ceremony, we headed back to East Aurora to join friends for lunch at our local Mexican place, where I got my celebratory post-semester margarita. It still doesn’t feel quite ‘real’ that I’ve graduated (again, it might be the big test looming), but each day it feels like a bit of the weight lifts off my shoulders.

What’s next?  Well, Andrew and I are about to head off on a much-needed vacation, and then I’ll be back and ready to spend some quality time on the yard, teach cycle classes at the YMCA, sit on the porch to read…and study.

three down…we’re DONE

Today, I had my last 5:30 a.m. wake-up for the hospital. 

Breakfast in hand, I walked into Buffalo General for what may be the last time. 

During my ‘staff relief’ rotation this past month, I worked on the 14th floor with neuro patients, as well as in the neurosurgery ICU. I shadowed one of the kindest, most patient dietitians I’ve ever met, whose calm demeanor was a perfect match for my high-strung nature. She offered both constructive criticism and encouragement along the way. Because I worked on the same floors every day, I got to know some of the nurses and patients as well. By the end of our four-week rotation, I was doing follow-up assessments on patients I’d seen multiple times already. I knew the nurses’ names. I got to the point that I was calculating tube feeds in seconds and even had to whip up a TPN recommendation on the spot today for my last–and very complicated–patient.

This rotation is the one I was dreading the most, yet I think I ended up enjoying it far more than the other two, despite the early mornings and long days. Far and away, I learned more about acute care and nutrition support in these four weeks than I did in any classroom in the last four years.

Four years. I can’t believe it’s been that long. In a matter of days, I’ll leave Buffalo State’s campus for the last time after graduation. I struggle to reconcile the amount of knowledge I’ve gained with how much Andrew and I have not done these past four years. Trips, house projects, quality time, starting a family. In some ways, it feels like we ‘lost’ all that time. It has felt as if we were in limbo since moving here–house-hunting, moving twice, me going back to school–I realized the other day that I’ve never really had what felt like a ‘permanent’ job since I graduated from Penn State 10 years ago. The Air Force wasn’t ever going to be my career, my short stint as a library employee certainly wasn’t permanent, we knew we would move, and then I went back to school just months after arriving in New York. Summers off never feel quite like the break they should be…not for me anyway. 

But now, things will be different. I’m not sure how it will all look, but I’m confident the future will be bright. And not nearly as stressful.

Today, I finished up four weeks of intense work as a student-RD with some dear friends. 

Next week, we’ll graduate–after four long years–and nothing feels quite as good as that right now.