To become a Registered Dietitian a person must first earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics (if you have a Ph.D. and a number of college nutrition courses, there is one exception called ISPP) from an accredited university. Next they will work to secure an Accredited Registered Dietitian Internship which is typically at least 1,200 hours and will be broken-up over a number of key areas which often include (prior work experience, if applicable, may be accepted toward these hours):
- Clinical & Medical Nutrition: hospitals, long-term care facilities, medical clinics, etc.
- Community & Public Health Nutrition: working in community-based centers like Women, Infants and Children (WIC), public health centers and government health organizations.
- Food Systems Management: here the intern is working in a place where there is a large kitchen or food preparation operation that feeds large volumes of people as you’ll find in schools, hospitals and nursing homes.
Once the person secures the internship they’ll set about organizing when and where they will be working to get those hours completed so that they can take the RD Exam. See my #1 recommended test prep tool here.
Their clinical and medical hours will be filled with interesting things that will run the gamut from sitting on your butt watching an RD input data into a computerized system, to interviewing patients and helping to create and monitor their progress throughout their care plans. RD interns often get to provide basic nutrition presentations to patients and help individual patients make better food choices. The clinical and medical internship sounded like hell on Earth to me but once I got started they were actually really great and I found that a lot of people really appreciate the time and effort you provide them.
The Case Study
Most Registered Dietitian internships are going to require you to do a number of case studies where you work with a patient to fully assess, track and develop their plan of care under the guidance of the RD on staff. This may take a few days or it could take weeks. Luckily I have an example of a clinical case study outline for you to view.
The attachment above is something like what may be used to frame the clinical case study experience. Of course each internship is different but in this situation you’ll be using this patient’s situation as your case study so that you can demonstrate the ability to perform the RD role in a clinical and medical setting.
You’ll probably be required to do similar case studies and present them orally as well so that could be part of the process. My case study requirements were pretty lengthy so not only did I have to do the written case studies but I had to develop and present oral versions of the case studies which I actually enjoy doing so that was cool. This is important because a competent RD must be able to communicate well orally so that they can mentor, teach and inform others about appropriate nutrition practices.
The key to everything is to know what your program expects and do what your preceptor (your managing RD) tells you to do. The internship is essentially your job so do well at it and make your case studies something you can be proud of. I hope this article gives you a little more of a “heads up” on what to expect in your clinical RD internship hours than I was able to find before beginning my RD internship.
Best to you my friend!