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Dietetic Internship Program

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Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System

Program Mission

The Mission of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS) Dietetic Internship (DI) program is to develop competent entry-level or above entry-level registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) for evidence-based practice in clinical, community, or foodservice nutrition. The program is structured for developing teamwork and leadership skills, cultural humility, establishing a basis for self-reflection and life-long learning essential for maintaining a credentialed status, and providing the most effective learning environment by utilizing highly trained staff preceptors and offering flexibility and support for individual interests and/or needs of students.

Program Philosophy

The strength of the training within the VAGLAHS DI Program is a direct result of the setting in a large progressive and research-oriented medical center, highly trained staff dedicated to education, and a rewarding curriculum that requires performance of dietetic skills that are entry-level or above. The supervised practice rotations are spent primarily at VAGLAHS sites promoting a cohesive learning environment.

Dietetic Interns learn by doing, and VAGLAHS provides an excellent setting for application of knowledge and development of clinical, community and administrative skills. Unique to teaching hospitals, the dietetic intern will learn to function as a vital component of the health care team, gain a multidisciplinary understanding of nutrition and patient care, and impact patient outcomes based on access to progressive medical and nutrition information and technology. Similar team-focused care is provided to outpatients through a large and expanding ambulatory care service. The administrative services are large in both size and scope, providing opportunities for interns in the areas of food service managment, personnel management, and all levels of departmental administration. Management projects are based on practical needs identified in the department and used for performance improvement and intended to teach interns life-long skills of planning and coordination, time management, and critical thinking. The program declares a medical nutrition therapy emphasis due to the vast amount of opportunities providing medical nutrition therapy in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

The dietetic professionals that serve as preceptors at VAGLAHS are dedicated to education and are committed to providing a comprehensive and supportive program. Staff preceptors serve as role models in providing the highest quality nutrition care to patients in cooperation with the health care team. The precepors take ownership and pride in teaching interns and use one-on-one teaching in a majority of the rotations.  When working with interns, preceptors ask thoughtful questions and prompt interns to think out loud in an effort to help guide their thought process, develop critical thinking, and generate their own solutions. The staff is large, and the time spent with each preceptor gives the intern a variety of professional styles from which to learn in developing their own unique style of professional practice. Continuous constructive evaluation of intern performance provides for sequentially higher levels of professional competence.

The curriculum, which directs the learning experiences for the interns based on Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) standards, is well developed and continuously revised to keep current with the rapidly changing health care field and intern interests. The curriculum is developed to facilitate achievement of successively higher-level skills as the intern progresses through rotations in all areas of dietetics.  Above and beyond the Internship curriculum, the program provides the freedom and flexibility for the intern to individualize their experience. 

Program Goals/Objectives

Program goals reflect what the VAGLAHS DI Dietetic program will accomplish. The outcomes that we measure for each program goal provide information on where we have been successful as a program and where we need to make changes to ensure success. These outcome measures are evaluated annually and serve as the basis for continuously improving our program.

Program Goal 1

Graduates will develop dietetic skills that are at least entry-level and the majority will graduate with dietetic skills above entry-level.

   a. Graduated interns will rate entry-level skills at the time of employment in 100% of training competencies by
       an average rating at or above 3.0 (based on a 5-point scale)
   b. Graduated interns will rate above entry-level skills at the time of employment in at least 50% of training
       competencies by an average rating >3.5 (based on a 5-point scale)
   c. Employers of graduated interns will rate graduates as having entry-level skills in 100% of training competencies
       by an average rating at or above 3.0 (based on a 5-point scale)
   d. Employers of graduated interns will rate graduates as having above entry-level skills in at least 50% of training
       competencies by an average rating >3.5 (based on a-5 point scale)

Program Goal 2

Graduates will function as a valuable member of the interdisciplinary health care team in clinical, community, and management dietetics.

   a. 90% of the graduates (based on a 3-year average) must respond that they have acquired the skills to be a
       valuable member of the interdisciplinary health care team.
   b. 90% of employers (based on a 3-year average) must respond that graduated interns are valuable members
       of the interdisciplinary health care team

Program Goal 3

Graduates will successfully complete the registration examination and obtain employment in dietetics field.

   a. Program Completion: At least 80% of program interns complete program/degree requirements within 16.5
       months (150% of program length) for the Non-Degree granting track, 33 months (150% of program length)
       for the Combined MS Optional tracks, and 31.5 months (150% of program length) for the Combined MPH
   b. Graduate Employment: Of graduates who seek employment, 70% are employed in nutrition and dietetics or
       related fields within 12 months of graduation.
   c. Graduate Performance on Registration Exam:
         i. 90% of program graduates take the CDR credentialing exam for dietitian nutritionists within 12 mos. of
            program completion.
        ii. 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%
   d. Employer Satisfaction: Based on a 3-year average, employers of graduated interns will rate satisfaction of
       graduate preparation at 3.5 or above on a 5-point scale.
   c. Employer Satisfaction: Based on a 3-year average, 80% of employers of graduated interns will respond “yes”
       that they would consider hiring graduates from our dietetic internship program for future entry-level positions.

Annual Program Evaluation outcomes data are available upon request by contacting the VAGLAHS DI director at