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Dietetic Internship Program


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Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System - FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

  1. What makes this program different from others?

The SAVAHCS DI offers integrated graduate didactic coursework and supervised practice. The VA is the largest healthcare system in the US with state-of-the-art technology. Training at VA gives you an advantage for future employment at the VA facilities around the country. VA is the largest employer of RDs in the country. The Veteran population is unique, so you will experience a wide range of ages, disease conditions and socioeconomic categories. Distinctive programs within VA include mental health, blind rehab, spinal cord injury, home based primary care and others. Serving America’s heroes is a privilege and VA staff repeatedly report their jobs are an honor. Tucson offers a low cost of living compared to larger cities.

    2. Where should I live?

The Program Director will assist you with finding areas of Tucson to search for housing and connect you with other interns for roommate options. Securing housing is your responsibility. Areas of town recommended include near the University of Arizona, Sam Hughes, Rincon Heights, mid-town Tucson. Outlying areas of town such as the far east side, Marana and Oro Valley are nice but involve a longer commute to the hospital.

  3. Can I work outside the program?

Outside employment is strongly discouraged during the DI Program. You will be spending 3 full days each week at the VA, taking a full graduate course load, and have a significant amount of homework and projects from both the UofA coursework and the supervised practice rotations. Plan to commit your time to the program to set yourself up for success. 

  1. Do I need a car?

Yes, it is strongly recommended that you have your own reliable vehicle. Public transportation in Tucson is limited. Proof of automobile insurance is required in Arizona. 

  1. Is the Master’s degree mandatory or can I do just the supervised learning alone?

No. The DI program is designed for concurrent completion of rotations at the VA and graduate coursework at UofA. 

  1. What is your patient population?

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides health care to men and women who have served in the branches of the military: Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Our population is made up of Veterans from World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf Wars, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Many Veterans also served during the Cold War era. While the majority of Veterans are male, the numbers of females are increasing every year. Various ethnicities are represented in the Veteran population, but southern Arizona has a large Hispanic and Native American representation. 

  1. I hear VA internships are super competitive, so should I even bother to apply?

VA programs have earned a reputation for being “too competitive.” All Dietetic Internship programs are competitive, that is not a unique characteristic of VA programs. If your education goals align with what our program offers, you should apply to a VA program. With no application fee, it’s a good deal. 

  1. What is a “rotation?”

A rotation is a supervised learning experience with a specific focus. It can range from a few days to several weeks. During the rotation you will have multiple assignments and hands-on work to master designated competencies. For example, in the surgery rotation, you work one-on-one with a RD preceptor who is responsible for the acute care surgical floor. The preceptor will teach you, discuss your assignments with you, and assess your learning. Surgical nutrition assignments may include case studies, quizzes, nutrition assessments for surgery patients, and more. A list of the rotations is provided on this site. Rotations require full 8-hour days and specific times depend on the preceptor and rotation.

    9. I am not a US Citizen. Can I still apply to your program?

All applicants to VA programs must be a US Citizen at the time of application. 

  1. Are vaccinations required for the internship?

Yes. Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Federal guidelines, specific immunizations are required. These include, but are not limited to, annual influenza, hepatitis B series, the COVID-19 series, and tuberculosis screening. 

Currently, the policy of  SAVAHCS is that any VHA employee (including Health Professions Trainees, i.e., Dietetic Interns) or volunteer who works in VHA facilities, visits VHA facilities, or provides direct care to those we serve is required to be fully vaccinated. Exceptions are approved on a case-by-case basis, and those with exceptions must comply with workplace safety protocols (i.e., appropriate masking and testing). Exceptions related to a medical condition or a religious belief are processed as a request for reasonable accommodation to the vaccination requirement. 

Exceptions cannot be reviewed or approved prior to the onboarding process. HR does not address vaccine status with employees until they are offered employment, which would be after matching occurs.  There is no way to get any exemption approved in advance, and there is no way to predict if exemptions will ultimately be honored at the time of employment.

 In addition to VA policies, SAVAHCS is subject to federal laws and executive orders, which means policies are frequently evolving. Students applying for our internship program who have not received the COVID-19 vaccination cannot be guaranteed that they will be able to complete their internship at the VA without receiving the vaccination. At any point, including after matching, after onboarding, or even after the internship has started, vaccination requirements may change and the intern may no longer be able to complete supervised practice rotations at the VA if they aren’t vaccinated. 

  1. What do I need for the online University of Arizona program?

Technological requirements can be found at the UA Online website: Technical Requirements | University of Arizona Online.  Verification of student identity is done upon admission to the UA and through the utilization of the online education platforms, which require an UA ID and password. The UA NetID verifies your identity when it is used for online services the University of Arizona provides. It helps ensure the privacy of personal information and restrict the use of resources to those for whom they are intended. For more information, check this website.