It's my last day at AIHFS! (American Indian Health and Family Services) While I'm super excited for my next rotation (Preventative Cardiology let's goooo!), I will miss all the great people I've met here at the agency.
Although this rotation wasn't quite what I expected, I was still able to fulfill the competencies and learning outcomes necessary. I appreciated having autonomy--I love being given adequate directions, then being released to just run with it. I didn't get as much experience as I wanted with WIC, but the clinic only happened twice a week. Another difficulty lies in the fact that there isn't a Registered Dietitian here, and the nutritionist who works in the clinic fills a variety of roles like teaching fitness classes and talking about Project Fresh too. As such, I don't necessarily get the whole view of what an RD would look like in this role (although after being here for three weeks, I've gotten a fairly good idea). In case you're wondering, Project Fresh is a program where women eligible in WIC can receive a coupon book that functions as cash to be used at the farmer's market (at participating vendors). It's separate from double-up food bucks, if you're familiar with that program. The intention of this service to help women incorporate even more fruits and vegetables into their own and their children's diets.
The biggest barrier to learning about WIC counseling has been the lack of enthusiasm from the population itself--often these families are coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and have other things taking up their time. It's not uncommon for women to come to their appointments only after their WIC benefits have expired or are very close to expiring. They want to be in and out of the nutrition education quickly, so that they can continue their benefits and get on with their lives. It's an understandable situation: no reliable transportation, multiple kids to bring with you, or work, are all reasonable barriers to access. AIHFS does have transportation available, which is great, but I know if I had two kids and a crying infant while I was trying to figure out how I was going to get to the grocery store to get food for the week, making my education appointment wouldn't necessarily be at the top of my list. I also got to sit in on an appointment with a 2 and 1/2 week old child and the family to learn about the differences between breastfeeding and formula feeding. It was really interesting, and they even have a little pillow that looks like a breast to show moms how they can help stimulate milk production! Even though the mom was a bit hesitant because she had been struggling with producing and giving milk, I loved seeing how much support was given to encourage her to keep trying and to normalize her struggles/experiences.
Something that other interns might be interested in is all the grant work that AIHFS does to get funding for their programs and their organization. I was not particularly interested in that however, and was content knowing that they submit grants for funding.
I also got to work with the community garden a little bit. One of the elderly cooking education sessions was focused on good fats and bad fats (although I don't necessarily support that labeling, I was utilizing a standardized handbook), so I chose a recipe using olive oil and eggplant and tomatoes which were available in our garden, ripe for the picking! The recipe was also quick and easy to make. Teaching was great experience--I received feedback that I need to bring my language level down a little bit, which is completely reasonable. In fact, it's something I'm trying to work on here too! Everyone also participated in the discussion; I love answering questions, because it shows me where I might need to freshen up my knowledge and where my strengths lie. I also just love talking about anything nutrition-related in general. :)
So even though I didn't get very much counseling experience due to the low number of appointments while I was there, I did get to see how the organization runs as a whole and learn more about the WIC program in general, as well as how a non-profit functions. I learned what the dietitian's role would be, and what the scope of practice looks like. Additionally, I learned a lot more about the Native American population and what struggles are specific to that community. I did end up applying for a job in Phoenix with WIC--even though I'm particularly interested in eating disorders, I am extremely passionate about counseling in general and would love to start off working in that area. I haven't heard back, so we will see. ;)