Topic 4: Helpful Resources for Students and Interns by Jessie Donaldson

          While working with my preceptor in a long-term care facility, I found several resources to be helpful to have on hand. These included a few handy pocket guides, a useful app on my phone, some evidence-based websites, and my go-to textbook. The resources a student or intern finds most helpful will depend on the environment they’re in and personal preferences, but I hope the list below of my own choices serves as a helpful starting point.

          Pocket Guides:

  • Pocket Guide to Nutrition Assessment
    • This is the guide I reached for most often. It is well organized and enabled me to quickly refresh my memory about aspects of nutrition assessment I’d learned, plus it went into detail about special considerations when dealing with specific conditions. For example, when calculating energy, protein, and fluid needs, there are sections that cover how to approach this with patients from various demographics and health histories.
  • Nutrition Focused Physical Exam (NFPE) Pocket Guide
    • Not all RDNs conduct full NFPEs. Depending upon the facility, it may only be feasible to rely on a pared-down version. Experienced RDNs are able to observe and assess a patient’s nutrition status by looking for physical features such as sunken orbitals or prominent clavicles. Whether doing a full exam or looking for easily observed features such as these, this is a helpful resource to guide interns through the process.
  • Pocket Guide to Spanish for the Nutrition Professional
    • Interns working in urban communities or in places with sizable Spanish-speaking populations may find this one particularly useful. While there’s no replacement for Spanish fluency, an intern with some degree of Spanish competency can better communicate with the dietetics-related vocabulary offered in this guide.
  • Various other pocket guides are available on medical nutrition therapy for specific conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure. Interns may wish to get the ones on conditions they see most frequently in their particular facility’s patient population.

*All of these pocket guides are available for purchase, in print or digital form, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) website at Student pricing is available to AND members.


  • eNCPT
    • This is the electronic Nutrition Care Process Terminology website, and it has been one of my most frequented sites throughout school. It hosts a wealth of information on the nutrition care process using the ADIME model. It’s a handy reference tool when looking up specific diagnoses, getting clarity on assessment criterium, and more. The “Reference Sheets” tab has much of this information in handy “cheat sheets”. As with the pocket guides, AND offers the eNCPT at a discounted price for students.
  • EAL
    • The AND Evidence Analysis Library is the first place many RDNs and interns look for the most current evidence-based guidelines in medical nutrition therapy. I find it easiest to navigate this site by going to the index and selecting the appropriate condition or topic, then navigating through the tabs on the left.
  • Nutriguides
    • Here’s a handy smartphone app that organizes everything from the EAL in a way that I find more intuitive than the EAL website. It’s easy to locate guidelines on many conditions and topics, and their clear ratings system is helpful in determining how strong the evidence is for each recommendation. I was also able to use it in a facility where the computers had restricted access, inhibiting my ability to use the EAL.
  • Canva
    • This app is accessible on any desktop or laptop computer, and is a great tool I’ve recently discovered. It isn’t nutrition-specific, but it is perfect for creating professional, aesthetically pleasing publications for nutrition education or school and internship assignments. Canva has an intuitive interface that allows the user to quickly create flyers, posters, presentations, social media posts, and more.

Books and Other Publications:

  • Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process, by L. Kathleen Mahan and Janice L. Raymond
    • This was, hands-down, the most utilized textbook in my classes. It covers all of the topics found in the above-mentioned pocket guides and more, but in much more detail. While it was a bit hefty to lug into my facility every day, having it at home was a must. I’d recommend getting the most recent edition when possible.
  • Food Medication Interactions, by Zaneta M. Pronsky
    • This is the classic bible of medications and their food interactions. Learning the names and uses of every medication was one of the hardest parts of my clinical experience, so a resource like this is very helpful. Unfortunately, this book is now somewhat infamously out of print. If you’re lucky enough to have a copy from your classes, hold onto it! Otherwise, the best alternative may be to Google each medication and reference reliable websites like

Starting a Private Practice as a Dietitian: How to Simply START by Jessica Dorner MS, RD

Starting a private practice is no easy task, but it can certainly be done!  The graduate program I enrolled in was “Entrepreneurial” based, meaning I wrote a business plan and was required to take finance classes.  The program I graduated from was awesome, and I learned how to be an effective, evidence-based Registered Dietitian… but I was not prepared for how much learning I had YET to do and learn as a business owner!   I knew I wanted to start my own private practice before I even started grad school, so I started to learn from my family, friends, the Small Business Association, YouTube, social media, and other RDs.  Let me tell you, I was not ready to start my private practice, and I did not feel 100% ready to go.  I had picked a date to start, and as that date got closer I got nervous but I started anyway! You may not feel ready or fully confident, but you have to go for it! There are so many moving parts to starting a business, and there is no perfect way to do it.  However, there are a TON of resources out there to set you in the right direction!

If you want to have a private practice as an RD, you really do just have to start! I suggest you utilize SCORE through the Small business association (SBA) in your area.  SCORE gives you free business mentoring that will help you set up a business plan, develop a marketing plan, offers webinars and classes, and in-person business development.  You can connect with the SBA and SCORE before you take the exam if you like.  Once you pass the RD exam, check out what licensing you need in your state and town.  You will need an NPI number.  If you are a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, there is group insurance through Mercer/Proliability that has a discounted rate for first year RDs. Once you have your licenses, NPI and insurance, you will want to do the following:

  • Setting up an LLC is super easy online, you can probably find the link on your local SBA website.
  • Find a lawyer that specializes in small business specifically for our field who can help you set up everything the right way the first time.
  • Find a bookkeeper or at least invest in a program like Quickbooks to track your expenses and purchases – keep your business and personal accounts separate
  • Find a space to rent that is private (many times other professionals have space they are renting out, like massage therapists, chiropractors, doctors)
  • Learn how to build business credit (check out CreditSuite on Youtube) without using your personal credit information – do this if you think you will EVER need a business loan/line of credit
  • Choose a domain name and create a website… or have a professional build one for you (that is what I did because I am NOT tech or web savvy!)
  • Get an email from your domain name through G-suite and get a BAA because you need HIPPA compliance for email
  • Set up a Google My Business page. I watch a million YouTube videos on how to build a business, how to optimize my business Google account, SEO, blogging, you name it, it’s out there.
  • Join LinkedIn, create your page and connect with others. LinkedIn is for business professionals, so create meaningful content to share (not the place to market your business, just share and engage with other business owners!)
  • According to my SCORE mentors, there’s “riches in the niches” If a specific part of being an RD interests you, learn as much as you can about that part of our job, get certifications and additional credentials if applicable, and market yourself as an expert in that niche/specific RD field
  • Create social media business accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
  • Create meaningful content to share to these accounts – show you are the expert
  • Follow the social media accounts of RDs who inspire you
  • Join Facebook groups for RDs and search those FB for specific topics you want to know and post a question if you can’t find the answer. (always search first!)
  • Answer the question: who is your ideal client? Get specific.
  • Find ways to market to your demographic and ideal client
  • Create your 30-60 second Commercial or Elevator pitch: who you are, what you do, how you help your clients, who your ideal client is
  • Network, network, network! Consider joining the Chamber of Commerce in the town your business is registered, as well as surrounding areas. Many times the Chambers have free or low cost networking events that you can try out and meet people before joining or even without ever joining.  BNI groups are also always looking for guests to visit.  There are probably many local networking groups that are free to join as well, search Facebook and Google to learn the groups in your target market
  • Understand you are learning, a work in progress and you are not going to know everything.Do not give up, every single thing is a learning experience!
  • Keep learning, keep focused, be a BOSS!
  • Have FAITH in yourself!

Every day I learn something new. Every day I work on at least one thing to make my business bigger, better and stronger. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but doing these things will help you move forward to owning the practice you deserve!

Jessica’s blog post can also be viewed at:

Ace your LTC/Clinical Rotation

I am a RDN with over 25 years of experience in LTC. Over the past few years, I have been working with students as a preceptor. This led me to create four nutrition presentations that have proven to be helpful to student dietitians and diet technicians. In fact, I have recently updated the videos as a result of some feedback from over 200 students. One had commented, “I wished I had seen your videos at the start of my internship.” In addition, I have written an e-Book that students can purchase for practical information on completing nutrition assessments. Sample patients are included. Overall, these resources are designed to give the student practical advice on how to complete nutrition assessments and plans based on current nutrition scientific evidence.

10 easy ways to connect with a RDN mentor:

1. Email Doreen Rodo at You can ask any RDN related questions. Specialty is LTC, writing and making videos for students.

2. Join the “Dietitian Mentor” Facebook group and post a question.

3. Join the Facebook group: “Dietitians on the blog” and visit their mentorship tab.

4. Volunteer to write a short article for a blog created by a RDN

5. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

6. Attend a local dietitians meeting and network with RDNs in your area

7. Create a profile on LinkedIn and connect with RDN members

8. Comment on posts from RDNs and ask questions

9. Call a local hospital, food bank or a LTC facility and ask to shadow the dietitian

10. Participate in the RD mentorship program in Florida and Texas. Contact person-Kristen Hicks:


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