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Reflections on my PMDip Program Experience

Carmen EKCarmen El-Khazen received an Honours BSc (2013) from the University of Toronto in Nutritional Sciences and Human Biology, and a BASc with Honours (2016) in Nutrition and Food from Ryerson University. She is a recent graduate of the Professional Masters Diploma in Dietetics (PMDip) - St. Michael's Hospital/Ryerson University Collaborative Dietetic Program. Alongside her prime passion for clinical nutrition and dietetics, Carmen also enjoys cooking, dance-fitness, playing piano, and music! Connect with Carmen on LinkedIn.
 

  
With the variety of dietetic internship options available, choosing a program can be confusing. By sharing my personal experience in the “PMDip” program, I hope to provide some insight to nutrition students journeying along the same dietetics path.
 
What is “PMDip” and its program structure?     
 
PMDip stands for the Professional Masters Diploma in Dietetics. It is a collaborative dietetics program offered as two options between Ryerson University and either St. Michael’s Hospital or North York General Hospital. This unique program provides students with concurrent hands-on practical hospital training alongside graduate level education via course work and dietetic-related workshops and seminars.

Essentially, the program runs from September to the summer, and students complete various placements in specialized areas of clinical nutrition, management, population health, and more. The weekly course work at Ryerson University is entirely assignment-based – that’s right, no exams (yay!) – which makes the course load manageable during practicum placements. Educational workshops and guest lectures are also structured into the course itself (such as seminars on motivational interviewing techniques; interprofessional education; equity, diversity and inclusion; end of life care; resume writing and interviewing skills).

In addition, seminars held at the hospital sites enhance learning. At St. Michael’s Hospital (my training site), scheduled weekly half-day sessions were offered with topics such as: enteral and parenteral nutrition support, managing challenging patient scenarios, eating disorders, paediatric nutrition, renal and diabetes nutrition care, dysphagia management, and many more.
 
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Why did I choose this program?
 
I chose this program for a variety of reasons such as:
  • Having completed two Bachelor degrees, the option of a one-year Professional Masters Diploma with practical training seemed time-efficient and financially feasible.
  • This route would allow me to consolidate my dietetic interests prior to pursuing a further specialized degree.
  • Maintaining university student status is a great perk and provides added student benefits!
  • The Toronto location was ideal for me as I already lived in the city.
  • As a Ryerson University graduate, I was confident of the university’s academic excellence and esteemed Nutrition Faculty.
 
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Some Program Highlights
 
My overall learning experience at St. Michael’s Hospital was highly positive as I thoroughly enjoyed my placements and learned so much. The sound clinical training that St. Michael’s Hospital provided was invaluable as we practiced in an acute care setting with an inner city-complex care population.
 
Some students completed external placements (for example, at Toronto Public Health, EatRight Ontario and Nestle), which were arranged by the Ryerson University Practicum Coordinator. Instead of an external placement, I completed a population health project for Nutrition Month (more on this next). What’s great is that the coordinators also took our personal interest areas into consideration when organizing our rotation schedules. While most were individual placements, some of us had a ‘twin’ student to learn from in some rotations – it is encouraging to have a friend within the same rotation, to provide and receive support, learn together and share!  
 
The continuous support available from the Ryerson University and St. Michael’s Hospital coordinators, as well as the numerous opportunities for us students to provide feedback, added to the positive learning environment of this collaborative program. Another benefit of the St. Michael’s Hospital experience was the ‘mentorship’ aspect, where each student was matched with their own RD mentor who provided friendly guidance throughout the year.
 
I also appreciated the vast educational resources and professional development opportunities available from St. Michael’s Hospital such as the student library, interprofessional education and networking events, and workshops in Maximizing Patient Education Skills and Basic Life Saving Certification.
 
Another highlight for me was completing an individual case study presentation project. All students presented case studies that were based on a personal learning experience with an anonymous patient and the nutrition care plan we carried out – for example, my topic was about the Nutritional Management of Acute Necrotizing Pancreatitis.
 
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My favourite aspects of the Ryerson University program collaboration include:
 
  • Having class with my fellow students from St. Michael’s Hospital, North York General Hospital, and Ryerson University’s Masters of Health Science in Nutrition Communication. This encouraged valuable group-work, collaborative learning, and socializing!
  • The varied structure of our weekly course, as described earlier
  • Student benefits like extra study space at the Graduate Nutrition Lounge and Library/Student Learning Centre, athletic membership, health coverage, and more.
 
Tid-Bit Feature Project: Nutrition Month 2017
 
I’d like to share a brief summary about one of the creative projects I completed, that I would especially recommend to those interested in nutrition communications and population health!
 
As our population health project, my fellow student (Hannah Magee) and I took on the Dietitians of Canada Nutrition Month 2017 Campaign, “Take the Fight Out of Food!”, at St. Michael’s Hospital. The aim was to educate staff and hospital visitors on the importance of healthy lifestyles, encourage a positive relationship with food and bring the role of Registered Dietitians to light. This involved planning, organization and execution of a main ‘Nutrition Fair’ Event, as well as communications, marketing and promotion via the hospital’s public relations and social media in March 2017.
 
Having reports, feedback and recommendations from previous PMDip student events was a bonus to facilitate our project planning. We also produced our own report for reference by future PMDip students. The overall statistical feedback and comments received from peers and attendees in our survey evaluation was highly positive.
 
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At the Nutrition Fair Event we created seven interactive stations such as Food Fads, Digestive Woes, Picky Eating, Eating and Stress, and Managing a Condition. The booths were designed to encourage attendee participation in fun learning activities and entering a raffle for nutrition-themed prizes. An original overhead slideshow also played automatically with embedded Nutrition Month campaign videos on loop. All the students worked together to share nutrition knowledge, advocate for the RD profession, and provide handouts and food samples at the stations.
 
This significant project was an incredibly rewarding experience that honed many of our skills including teamwork, communication, self-direction, organizational and time-management, advocacy, creativity, and many more!
 
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So what’s the verdict on PMDip?
 
I would not hesitate to highly recommend the PMDip route to other students. My overall experience with this collaborative dietetic program has been invaluable, and I feel that it has prepared me well for a career as a Registered Dietitian.
 
I also suggest checking out my fellow colleague’s recent blog post about her own thoughts on the PMDip program, in addition to her useful tips and points to consider for those thinking about this program option.
 
Lastly, I wish all nutrition students good luck with the application process. I suggest listening to your instinct on the best option that suits you!
 
Editor’s Note:  If you’re a student or new grad contemplating your future, read some other posts in our student series such as “You didn’t get an internship now what?” Part 1 and Part 2, and How to Pick the Perfect Internship Program.
 
 
Disclaimer: The opinions of the bloggers are their own. Dietitians of Canada encourages submissions and provides publishing support but does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. Please contact the writer directly for concerns or questions about the content.  
 
  1. Hi Sue,
    Thank you for your comment! It's great that you offer a course for those writing the CDRE! It sounds very helpful to have a structured review for the exam. Some suggestions I have for extended outreach are:
    - posting in the Dietitians Support Group / CDRE preparation groups on Facebook
    - posting on the Reddit-Dietetics forums
    - contacting various university nutrition/dietetic program coordinators (other than the internship-specific coordinators)
    - reaching out to the College of Dietitians of Ontario to request that they include your course as a suggested resource in the CDRE preparation guide that is released each year, if that is possible.

    I hope that helps!
    (my apologies for the delayed response - I only just saw your comment/question now).

    Regards, Carmen
  2. Hello Carmen:
    I enjoyed reading your article!
    I offer a course for dietitians taking the CDRE. Do you have any ideas on how I can reach as many new dietitians as possible. I usually notify the internships and academic program coordinators/directors and of course I use LinkedIn and Facebook.

    Any other suggestions?

    Sue

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