After my third failure at being accepted to a dietetic internship, I cried my eyes out. I remember that Monday morning coming into work, April 2, 2012. I was fortunate enough that my employer gave me a hug and assured me that herself and my co-workers did not think any less of me. This unconditional support is what allowed me to take the next step. I had remembered there was an internship that did not participate in matching. After running around for a week for last minute references and then applying, I received an e-mail of acceptance to a MBA/DI coordinated program from Dominican University Brennan School of Business. I could not have been happier. My manager then told me, “This is a better fit for you.”
The competition of getting into an internship is fierce. In 2009 and 2010, students matched to an internship was 50% according to the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education. Fortunately, in the 2011 annual report, matching in April increased by 2%. Although the acceptance rate has increased, the percentage of acceptance remains competitive for aspiring individuals seeking to be a Registered Dietitian (RD). It is essential for current professionals, educators, and mentors to be aware of the increasing difficulty of acceptance into dietetic internships, while being able to offer unique skills and resources to increase individuals’ competitiveness for internship candidacy.
1) Mentoring resources including articles, videos, and a toolkit from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) is a great start for professionals, educators, and mentors. Another great resource is the online dietetics preceptor training from the Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR). It offers 8 CPEs to Dietetic Technicians, Registered (DTR) and RDs who complete the course. It offers preceptors information about learning styles, cultural diversity, teaching professionalism, sharing feedback with students and more. The training also offers examples of objectives and learner outcomes to his or her disposal. Furthermore, once you have completed the program, you can always return to the module for clarification or assistance. Currently, however, CDR is switching to a new platform and the preceptor training will not be available for a few weeks.
2) Getting Matched: A Guide for Dietetic Students and All Access Internships by Jenny Westerkamp, RD is by far the best resource for didactic students who seek a dietetic internship. The free book offers comprehensive tips and action plans related to how and when to start looking into internships and alternative options for people who are unmatched. The website also offers coaching, which had an acceptance rate of 80% during April’s 2012 matching. Professionals, educators, and mentors may also post opportunities to offer individuals short or long term.
3) The Appendices A of the The 2012 Standard for Dietitian Education Programs provides knowledge requirements and competency/learner outcomes expected from a RD. This can be a tool used to assess students’ weaknesses and strengths in order to create goals to develop diversity and competitiveness in candidates applying for the dietetic internship. Appendices B offers verbs for developing learning objectives.
4) Effective as of June 1, 2009, CDR created eligibility requirements for dietetic technicians: new pathway III. Individuals who have a bachelors degree and completed the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) are eligible to take the examination. This allows individuals to be more competitive when applying for dietetic internships and employment related to nutrition. After my second internship rejection, my employer and a presenter at the 2011 Hawai’i Dietetic Association Conference encouraged me to become a DTR. Besides an increase in my competitive profile, my employer paid for my local dietetic association conference.
5) Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics has made it a priority to have qualified students be offered supervised practice. In September 2011, Individualized Supervised Practice Pathways (ISPP) announced the academy as an option. ISPP allows 1) graduates who did not match to a dietetic internship, but who possess a DPD verification statement, 2) individuals holding a doctoral degree, or 3) overseas dietitians to apply for an ISPP. However, the eligibility requirements and options may vary by program. After completing the ISPP, one may sit for the RD examination. According to the dietetic internship search engine from AND, there are currently 9 programs that offer ISPP.
6) According to CADE annual report for Fall 2009 matched applicants, grade point average (GPA) was the biggest factor that affected matching for dietetic internships. 66.13%, 27.23%, and 16.67% acceptance rate was observed for the Overall GPA range of 3.6 – 4.0, 3.0 – 3.59, and 2.99 or lower, respectively. 61.11%, 26.92%, and 16.33% acceptance rate was observed for DPD GPA range of 3.6 – 4.0, 3.0 – 3.59, and 2.99 or lower, respectively. Another benefit for individuals with higher GPAs are academic scholarship opportunities, which can off-set college expenses. This may even free up time for students to do more nutrition-related activities. Other factors that were reported were post-graduate work and the ability to relocate.
7) Networking is a crucial skill every candidate should develop. Words cannot emphasize the opportunities that become available and skills acquired when an individual networks. For me personally, networking informed me of jobs in restaurants, a job at Women, Infant, and Children, leadership roles at my local dietetic association, and the current MBA/DI program I will be attending in the Fall. Networking and its’ potential benefits should always be encouraged to individuals. Some networking places that can be explored are:
- Your local dietetic association is a great start for not only current professionals, but for students. In Hawai’i, I was the Recorder for the Public Policy Committee because of my typing abilities. Furthermore, I assisted with starting Legislative Day for RDs to increase visibility at the state capital.
- The Student Central at the The Academy Member Center allows didactic students to be a part of the Student Advisory Committee, a part of student community, student liaison, or writer for the Student Scoop Center.
- DPGs offers discounts to students and plethora of opportunities. What nutrition councils at universities can do is have each student be a part of a group and share articles and opportunities that may be available.
- LinkedIn is a professional network website, which allows you to connect with friends of friends. It allows you to showcase your resume and ask professionals within your network to write recommendations to be added onto your profile. Furthermore, you may join groups to increase visibility, your network, job search, leadership opportunities, or nutrition knowledge. I even used the AND group to assist me with writing this article.
- In Spring 2012, Ventures magazine offered by Nutrition Entrepreneurs, Katie Clark, MPH, RD, CDE suggested upgrading your network by attending MeetUp, Toastmasters, and Slow Food USA. MeetUp’s motto is, “Do something, Lean something, Share something, Change something.” MeetUp’s group people with similar interests, which may offer opportunities to individuals. Toastmasters is an organization that can assist with leadership and public speaking. Slow Food USA is an organization dedicated to the pleasure of food, community, and the environment.
- “Real people. Real reviews.” This is the motto of Yelp. Yelp offers the opportunity to write about businesses to be shared with the community. It has a diverse network allowing you to create your own or attend events. If you write enough reviews, you may also become a Yelp Elite and have the opportunity to join exclusive parties that showcases venues in the area. You may even be lucky to bring a +1.
Internship applications can be daunting, and those who are already RDs can empathize the difficulty and labor required to search, apply, and to attend dietetic internships. Although the latest acceptance rate for internships increased to 52%, the demand for prestige interns are on the rise. Professionals, mentors, and educators related to nutrition can use these resources and skills to mold individuals into stellar candidates for the dietetic internship matching. As a professional, I intend to mentor and help students build his or her skills wherever I can and I hope to you do the same.