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Dietetic Internship Program

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Bay Pines VA Healthcare System


The mission of the dietetic internship program is to educate dietetic interns to become entry-level Registered Dietitians Nutritionists who will serve Veterans and the public and promote the profession of dietetics.

Education Philosophy

The Paul M. Russo Dietetic Internship aims to provide interns with essential knowledge and skills to become competent entry-level registered dietitian nutritionists to meet the expanding role of today's dietitian. The internship is integrated with a Master's in Public Health, Nutrition and Dietetics concentration. The internship presents a common core of knowledge in a systematic way which is evidence-based. Each intern completes the same rotations to acquire basic knowledge of different areas. The internship offers experiential learning. Preceptors facilitate learning by assigning specific patients to the intern based on the intern's needs. We teach a realistic approach to real life situations.

The internship creates teamwork opportunities with dietitian nutritionists and other staff through special projects and assignments. The internship encourages problem solving and critical thinking, encouraging the intern to bring their undergraduate knowledge and life experiences to the situation. We challenge the intern to accept more independence as the year progresses, culminating in staff relief.

The internship encourages preceptors to complete preceptor training and continually learn and advance their practice. Preceptors develop their rotation materials and offer one on one time with interns on specific cases.

With its focus on our special population of Veterans, Bay Pines imbues the code of conduct and ICARE values to interns (Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence). Awareness of ethical concerns, respect for Veteran values and placing the Veteran and Veteran desires at the center of care is of paramount importance in our daily teaching.

The internship is integrated with the University of South Florida providing the opportunity to obtain a Master of Public Health degree which further expands the program's depth into population health and meets the public's health-related challenges. We seek to continuously improve our education of interns to meet the role of the dietitian nutritionist in clinical, food service management and community nutrition.


1. To produce competent, entry-level registered dietitian nutritionists possessing the skills necessary to practice in a variety of food and nutrition fields as measured by:

  • The program's one-year pass rate (graduates who pass the registration exam within one year of first attempt) on the CDR credentialing exam for dietitian nutritionists is at least 80%.
  • At least 80% of interns on program evaluation will agree or strongly agree that the internship prepared them for dietetic practice.
  • At least 80% of interns on program evaluation will agree or strongly agree that the program provides knowledgeable, professional staff and facilities that support learning.
  • At least 80% of employers on survey will agree or strongly agree that graduates were adequately prepared for entry-level practice.
  • At least 80% of interns complete program requirements within 156 weeks (150% of planned program length).
  • At least 90% of program graduates take the CDR credentialing exam for dietitian nutritionists within 12 months of program completion.

2. To prepare graduates to meet the needs for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists in the Veterans Health Administration and the Nation.

  • Of graduates who seek employment, at least 90% are employed in nutrition and dietetics or related fields within 12 months of graduation.
  • An average of 33% percent of graduates will be placed at a VA facility.

3. To prepare dietetic professionals who participate in professional development and lifelong learning.

  • At least 33% of graduates will report pursuing advanced positions, specialty certifications, leadership opportunities and advocacy activities.

Please note that program outcomes will be made available upon request.

Becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Becoming an RDN is a five-step process. The Dietetic Internship is step 2.

  1. Complete a bachelor's degree or a master's degree and receive a verification statement from an ACEND-accredited program (Didactic Program in Dietetics, Coordinated Program, Graduate Program or Foreign Dietitian Education Program). Note, effective January 1, 2024, a graduate degree will be required to be eligible to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration's dietetic registration exam.
  2. Complete an ACEND-accredited supervised practice Dietetic Internship program or Individual Supervised Practice Pathway. Supervised practice/experiential learning is combined with the Coordinated Program and Graduate Program.
  3. Pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration's dietetic registration exam.
  4. Gain licensure in your state of practice, if applicable. More information about state licensure can be found here. Licensure is required in the state of Florida. More information about licensure in the state of Florida can be found here
  5. Maintain continuing education
For more information about educational pathways to become an RDN, please visit here.

Special Note: Effective January 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) will require a minimum of a master's degree to be eligible to take the credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). In addition, CDR requires that individuals complete coursework and supervised practice in program(s) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). In most states, graduates also must obtain licensure or certification to practice. Graduates who successfully complete the ACEND-accredited Dietetic Internship program at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System are eligible to apply to take the CDR credentialing exam to become an RDN.