How to Land a Job Working in a Hospital as a New Dietitian 

usethisoneI know how you feel; you’re fresh out of the internship, ready to finally strut your stuff as a new RD! But why aren’t you hearing back from the 100 jobs you applied to?

It took me approximately 2 months to land a job after passing the registration exam. And boy, did those 2 months feel like FOREVER! It’s important to stay patient and remember that your time will come. I’ll admit, I also made some not-so-smart decisions; like applying to jobs that asked for 10+ years experience (yeah not happening-although you may get lucky when applying for jobs that require at least 1-5 years experience). Within the past 2 years as being an RD, I have been offered 4 out of the 5 RD positions I interviewed for. I’ve learned a lot from my job search experience and wanted to share some information I found to be beneficial.

When Creating your resume/cover letter: 

  • List your internship experience as if it were a regular job. After all, your internship experience will be your selling point. If you had a unique opportunity during your internship, mention it! Put emphasis on your clinical rotation experience because this is the type of job you are applying for. Have someone who has experience with resumes review it before submitting. 

The job search:

  • Keep in mind that not all hospitals will post their job openings on popular job search sites. This is why it’s important to go to their direct website and look for the careers section. Also consider food service company websites as these hospitals may contract their dietitians from them. 

Consider per diem positions

  • Although not ideal, it may be easier to get a job that’s per diem. Okay- so you don’t get all of the perks a full time employee may have (job security, health insurance, paid vacations) but it won’t last forever and it usually means you’re next in line if a full time/part time position opens up. Also, from my personal experience, it’s an amazing learning opportunity. Working per diem exposed me to a variety of different patient populations because I covered different units. I guess you could say I was a ‘floater’. This gave me a brush up on what I learned during my internship. Not to mention- per diems have a little more flexibility with days they can/can’t work which means if a part-time/full-time position opened up somewhere else, it’s possible to work at two different places at once. Even as a per diem you may have the opportunity to work 40 hrs a week which is great, especially considering per diems usually make a little more on an hourly basis than their full time counterparts.

Maintain a good relationship with those you worked with during your internship:

  • Networking plays a big role on how dietitians get their jobs. Especially since the field of dietetics is a small world. Keep your preceptors in mind when you need references.

For the interview:

Don’t forget to dress the part. Hospitals are huge on maintaining proper hygiene so it’s best to look as clean cut as possible. As you know from ServSafe- long nails, long earrings, and wearing your hair down is not ideal. Keep in mind that as a clinical dietitian you will be entering the kitchen at some point. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you should arrive to your interview wearing a hairnet. But it’s recommended to keep your jewelry simple, hair out of your face, and your nails natural and short. Business clothing is a must!

Job Interview

Don’t forget about the clinical rotation experience you had during your internship. You may not have any prior experience working in a hospital and that’s okay! This is when it’s important to use your internship experience to answer clinical related questions.

Patient satisfaction is the number one priority of hospitals. You’ll learn very early on what Press Ganey is. Be prepared to answer questions on your interview on how you can improve the care of your patients. When answering patient related questions, put yourself in their shoes and remember- the customer (patient) is always right. Keep this in mind when asked how to handle a patient that may be unsatisfied with their food/diet.

Time management is everything. I can guarantee you learned how to manage your time during your dietetic internship! But what would you do if something came up that you didn’t have time for? Think about it. This question is asked a lot during interviews.

You can’t avoid working as a team. It’s nearly impossible to work alone as a dietitian in a hospital. You will be in constant communication with nurses, doctors, dietetic technicians, food service workers, etc. Before your interview, recall a time you had to work as a team player. Think about how you would react if someone on your “team” wasn’t doing their part. If you had any group projects during your internship, it would be a great example to use.

Don’t forget to write a thank you note to the person who interviewed you! A handwritten note in a thank you card is more personal, but I have found that an email is just as appropriate.

I hope some of this information is useful! If you have any questions, please feel free to drop them below in the comment section.

And, as I said before, be patient. Don’t worry- your time will come when you can finally order Ensure without asking another dietitian if it’s okay.

Angelica Lee (4)

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