On The Reel: Choosing a Dietetic Internship

 

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On the Reel is back!  I wasn’t feeling the draft I had in the works for this series, so I had to re-evaluate what I wanted to discuss in this installment.  In lieu of the promised post on volunteering, I want to dive right into the meat of the matter, the Dietetic Internship and the selection criteria that you will want to consider.

I chose to write about this topic because this time last year, my fellow dietetics seniors and I were summoned to the dietetics department to begin Internship Prep.  Internship Prep was a semester long course taken in the Fall prior to DICAS opening in Spring.  Considering a LOT goes into preparing a DICAS application, we were tasked with choosing programs we wanted to apply to (that were a good fit for us) prior to the start of Fall classes.

Choosing a dietetic internship(s) is a HARD decision because they’re so diverse.  Absolutely NO two are alike!  Today, I would like to share suggestions that might help you be more objective (get your life) as you construct your list.

To get started, you’ll need to visit the EatRight website to access the list of over 200 dietetic internships across the U.S.   Also, check with your program director for access to the Applicant Guide to Supervised Practice. 

Choose a DI

 Type of Program

There are a couple of things that you’ll want to consider in this category…

First, you need to decide if you want to complete a straight up Dietetic Internship, which is typically 6-9 months long and will allow you to transition to RD rather quickly, or do you want to complete a Dietetic Internship that is combined with a Masters degree, which can take 1-3 years to complete and typically the MS must be completed first to be RD eligible.  With a Dietetic Internship only, you may still have to earn some college credit or even obtain a graduate certificate, but typically you solely have a 40 hour work week with homework assignments or projects.

With a MS/DI there are a variety of ways your schedule can pan out.  You may complete all of your graduate classes the first year and then do your supervised practice the second year.  Your schedule could also be structured like mine, where you complete rotations during the day and then grad classes at night.  Oh and of course homework and projects come with the territory here too!

Arrangement of Program

Now you may want to look at the arrangement of the program.  Should you choose a brick and mortar institute or a distance program?  As long as the program is accredited by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, then both are equal academically in training you to become a RD.  You are more so looking at this from a location and a self-discipline standpoint.  If its a physical location, then you may have to move to complete rotations and attend classes on campus.  But there’s a benefit to this because someone is coordinating all of your rotations, you can get face to face guidance when needed, and the camaraderie of your fellow interns.  Also, if you thrive in a classroom environment as opposed to Blackboard Discussion boards, then this type of internship may suit you best.  On the other hand, a distance dietetic internship may require you to coordinate your rotations and can require travel to their facility or designated meeting place for at least orientation.  This type of program is right up the alley of a DIY enthusiast, the individual that prefers to complete assignments in a non-traditional manner and doesn’t mind minor travel.  Jasmin at Dietitian Ambition gives great advice on distance dietetic internship programs. 

Emphasis

This is where you ask yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  Well, you’ve got the RD part of it sewed up at this point, but now you’re thinking about what type of RD do I want to be or what will you specialize in.  Emphasis is about the nutrition focus of the dietetic internship.  DI’s are supposed to report what their program specializes in.  Just as it was in your DPD, all dietetic internship cover the community, clinical, and food service aspects of dietetics and require that you complete 1200+ hours total.  However, the emphasis may dictate how many hours you cover of each subject.  For instance, a dietetic internship specializing in school food service may require you to spend 350 of your hours in that realm of dietetics where as another internship may have you meet those requirements in 275 hours.  Also, the coursework or assignments may be geared towards a particular discipline in dietetics.  For instance, the graduate certificate that you earn could have a clinical nutrition emphasis.  Again, looking into all aspects of the dietetic internship will help to determine if that particular program is a good fit for you.

Money

Bottom line, even though this is called a dietetic internship, these programs cost…Eh, COST a LOT!  While acceptance into a dietetic internship is a competitive matter that will make you feel like you have to weather any and everything to get one, still factor cost into your decision.  Some internships offer stipends, scholarships, assistantships, and full tuition-waivers, but that can also add to the difficulty of landing into that program. They probably get hundreds of applications due to the financial assistance offered to its interns.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t apply, but this is something to consider.  Also, looking at internships affiliated with schools can be a good option because typically these type of programs allow you to utilize student loans.  Still, be smart about your decision because a dietetic internship does not leave room for working a part-time job or any job at all leaving you to think about the aftermath of catching up financially and paying back loans once the internship is over.  Last, make sure that any of these financial assistance options are even available at all.  Some internships DO NOT offer any financial assistance and you are responsible for paying all fees up front or in installments.

Location

This one goes back to the arrangement of the program.  The best advice I can give here is to be flexible.  If you are not confined to living in a particular geographic location then I say apply anywhere that best meets your needs because you may have a better chance matching.  Also, choose a less popular geographic location such as rural areas and maybe newly established dietetic internship programs because these are often less sought out as opposed to programs in say Florida, California, or New York.

Admission Criteria & Fit

I’m sure you’ve been told that grades are of utmost importance, and they are!  But there are other things considered by DI programs.  I suggest that you are attentive to other qualifications that the program is looking for because sometimes they are non-negotiable.  These applicant characteristics could be the hours of volunteerism, work experience, fluency in languages, leadership, advanced degrees earned and other specifics.  Dietetic Internships have good reason for looking for these characteristics in their candidates and use these as a “checklist” to ensure that you’re a good fit, so be knowledgable about their expectations.


Hopefully, this post provoked excitement because you’re at the point of applying to a dietetic internship! XD  Yay!  Even though it may seem daunting, its doable…I’m proof!  I’ve matched and start my dietetic internship in 2 weeks!  Mainly this list is meant to get your wheels turning, but ALWAYS consult your DPD director during the application process. They’re your greatest ally and cheerleader!

 So, dietetics peeps…What type of dietetic internship are you looking forward to being accepted to? 

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