Monica PosterAt the 2016 VAND Annual Meeting held this year in Fairfax, VA, selected VAND members presented posters on research they had recently conducted. It was a pleasant surprise to see the number of dietetic interns chosen to participate in this year’s session, as well as a number of nutrition professionals. Dietetic interns and Registered Dietitians from across the state of Virginia were present at the session, with posters reporting on quality improvement projects, patient satisfaction studies, program research and development, development of nutrition-related screening tools, community resource development, clinical research studies and more. The poster session was heavily attended, giving poster presenters a chance to share something they are passionate about, or at least something they have put a great deal of work into, with many of their professional peers. The poster session provided networking opportunities for interns and established nutrition professionals alike, as well as the ability to gather new perspectives on poster topics.

As a dietetic intern and first-time poster presenter, I was not sure what to expect. However, the more people came by my poster, the more passionate I became about the work I had completed over the last 6 months. My research, completed as a “capstone project” through my internship program with the guidance and oversight of a preceptor, focused on whether the Braden Scale was a positive predictor of nutrition risk in acute care patients, and if it should be used as a nutrition screening trigger for RD services. Consisting of prospective medical chart data collection as well as a nurses’ survey, we obtained data from 121 patients and 50 members of the nursing staff. Our data indicated opportunities for improvement in how the Braden Scale is completed at our facility, as well as how RDs and patients alike would be impacted with the addition of a RD trigger based around Braden Scale scores. It was a privilege of mine to work with both Wendy Phillips and Kate Willcutts on this project, and it was an honor to stand before my professional role models and peers, discussing the importance of quality patient care in the acute care setting. I was able to meet and network with new people, gain new perspectives on my research, and hear how my research could impact nutrition practice in various settings. It was particularly valuable for me to hear from RDs currently employed in an acute care setting about how my findings are consistent with what they thought, but never had proof of being true. Other intern presenters I spoke with after the conference echoed these statements, some adding they didn’t expect so many people to be interested in their projects, that it helped them realize what they had accomplished, and that they felt as though they were making a difference as a result of their work!

To current and future dietetic interns…I highly recommend taking advantage of research opportunities with your dietetics program if possible, and participating in poster sessions like the one at VAND!  The personal and professional growth you experience as a result is absolutely worth the hard work. The number of young people interested in nutrition research was extremely encouraging to see, affirming the future of our field is in good hands. I cannot wait to see where the future of dietetics research is headed and look forward to participating in more poster sessions as my career blooms!

Monica Hershey is currently a dietetic intern at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, VA. Monica earned her undergraduate degree in nutritional sciences at Penn State University. Upon graduation, Monica would like to work as a clinical RD at a large medical facility on the East Coast, with hopes of working as a renal dietitian in the near future. Her personal interests include hiking with friends, recipe-less cooking and exploring all the fun that Charlottesville has to offer!