Dietetic Internship Program
VA St. Louis Health Care System
The VA St. Louis Dietetic Internship Program is a 42 week (10 months) program that prepares entry-level dietitians to work in a variety of dietetic settings. Our program concentration is "Health Promotion to Chronic Disease Management". Our program offers two opportunities (Tracks) for students to become registered dietitians. Students needing a graduate degree can apply to the University of Alabama and attend a fully online, 21-month, 30 credit-hour Master of Science program in Human Nutrition along with the supervised practice (Track 1). Students who already have a graduate degree can apply to attend the supervised practice portion only (Track 2). While in the supervised practice portion of the program, we combine educational experiences of didactic classes and workshops along with hands-on rotations, focusing on promoting good health, developing medical nutrition therapy (MNT) skills for disease prevention and treatment, refining teaching and presentation skills, developing interpersonal relationships, and identifying resources to prepare interns to assist patients/clients in meeting the healthcare challenges of their social and physical environments. We also promote learning about health disparities, which will help interns understand and identify appropriate areas for developing health promotion programs. It is our philosophy that critical thinking, problem solving, strong communication skills, resource management skills, organizational skills, leadership skills and cultural competence are necessary to serve in professional organizations and to practice as a dietitian in a vast array of work settings. The curriculum encourages the development of a disciplined mind, critical thinking, creative abilities, skills in human relations, communications, flexibility, professional behavior, and advocacy. Students are paid a generous stipend while in the supervised practice portion of the internship program.
Please be aware that as a VA hospital, most of our patients are adult males and females of all ages. Exposure to family nutrition is in the community rotations, such as WIC and at the food banks. Potential applicants with a professional interest in clinical pediatrics or family practice may find that this particular internship program may not be an ideal "match" due to limited clinical exposure in these areas.
Schedule and Holidays
The supervised practice portion of the internship program is FULL TIME, with interns spending eight (8) hours per week in the classroom and 32 hours per week in a supervised practice setting. Each intern schedule for the program is unique to allow for 1-to-1 rotations with preceptors. Class days are reserved for didactic lessons and workshops, guest lecturers, field trips, work/planning sessions for individual and group projects, and intern presentations. To complete the various program requirements, additional personal time (beyond the scheduled weekly hours), of up to 10 hours weekly, will be necessary for rotation preparation and assignments, various projects, and professional meetings. Having another job outside of the internship program while in supervised practice may interfere with successful completion of the program. Interns are encouraged to wait until they begin the supervised practice portion of the internship program to determine their availability before accepting another job. Interns earn paid leave (vacation) during the program. Some vacation days are automatically scheduled during winter holidays and in the spring. Interns may select 2.5 days off in the spring with approval from the internship director. Specific details will be provided during Orientation. Special leave requests must be discussed with the internship director in June, before entering the program in August, to be considered. Up to nine paid holidays are also included in the program. Infrequent evenings may be part of the intern schedule and weekends offer volunteer opportunities for specialized learning experiences. There is no compensation paid for "overtime" and interns do not work holidays or weekends. Details will be discussed during Orientation.
Becoming A Registered Dietitian (RD)
Becoming a Registered Dietitian is a three-step process:
Step 1: Complete an undergraduate or graduate Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). The DPD provides all the prerequisite and core dietetics courses needed to prepare for the supervised practice portion of the training. DPD and internships also offer specialized coursework and training for those interested in a specific area of dietetics.
The Master's Requirement:
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). For more information about this requirement visit CDR's website: https://www.cdrnet.org/graduatedegree.
Step 2: Complete the supervised practice work in an ACEND-accredited dietetic internship program. It may be desirable to complete an internship that "matches" your professional interests. CDR requires that individual’s complete coursework and supervised practice in program(s) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Graduates who successfully complete the ACEND-accredited St. Louis VA Dietetic Internship Program at the St. Louis VA Health Care System are eligible to apply to take the CDR credentialing exam to become an RDN.
To be approved for registration examination eligibility with a bachelor’s degree, an individual must meet all eligibility requirements, complete supervised practice work, and be submitted into CDR's Registration Eligibility Processing System (REPS) before 12:00 midnight Central Time, December 31, 2023.
Step 3: Pass the national Registration Exam for Registered Dietitians, which is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). The state of Missouri, along with some other states, also require the RD be licensed to practice. Check with your individual state of residence for details about any licensing process.
For more information: https://www.eatrightpro.org/acend/students-and-advancing-education/information-for-students
St. Louis Dietetic Internship Graduation Requirements
Interns must do the following to graduate from the internship program:
• Successfully complete all supervised practice rotations (for a minimum of 1200 hours) as determined by the preceptors and the Dietetic Internship Director
• Complete all graduate program requirements (if enrolled at the University of Alabama)
• Attend all class lectures, workshops and seminars
• Complete all projects per instructions at entry level competent by the established deadline.
• Obtain an overall rating of “Competent” at entry level in all competencies by the end of the program.
• Complete staff relief with a rating of "Competent" at entry level in all related competencies.
• Dietetic internship graduates will receive a verification statement of successful program completion from the internship director and will be eligible to take the Registration Examination for dietitians. Once the RD credential is obtained, state licensure may be applied for, if applicable in the State of residence.
• If a student is dismissed from graduate school (when enrolled at the University of Alabama), they will not be allowed to continue in the dietetic internship program.
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A Message from the Dietetic Internship Director
Thank you for your interest in the dietetic internship program at the Department of Veterans Affairs in St. Louis, Missouri. The internship program at the VA St. Louis Health Care System has a concentration of “Health Promotion to Chronic Disease Management”. Our internship will prepare you to provide nutrition-based disease treatment for patients in a clinical setting using MNT, to design community health promotion programs, to develop health education materials and deliver successful presentations, and to supervise staff in a food service environment. I am sure you will see, after browsing through our website, that our dietetic internship program offers unique and thorough hands-on learning experiences which will prepare you for a variety of entry-level positions in the diverse and exciting field of dietetics. In fact, employers rate our graduates as working “above entry level” in their first jobs!
I would like to point out to you some unique qualities which may not be immediately apparent.
Master's Degree option: The internship has established a partnership with The University of Alabama to provide Interns with the opportunity to enroll in a fully online, 30 credit-hour Master of Science program in Human Nutrition. The program is creatively designed to provide foundation knowledge before starting coursework, integrate class assignments with experiences in the internship, and assure advanced knowledge in the field of nutrition and dietetics. The internship director works directly with university faculty to align assignments and activities, allowing students to complete the internship and master’s degree in less than two years (21-months). All courses are offered fully online, and out-of-state fees are waived. Financial aid is available to cover course tuition and living expenses for students who qualify, and there is no need for additional letters of recommendation or GRE Scores. The estimated total cost for the degree is approximately $14,000. Interns can also work full time during the first year of the graduate program, if desired. For the second year, the intern moves to St. Louis to continue with the online coursework and complete the supervised practice portion at the VA; a generous stipend is paid while the intern is at the VA completing the supervised practice. The graduate program can accept up to 12 hours of graduate coursework as transfer credit that may be applied to the degree. For more information contact email@example.com. You can learn more about the program here: http://www.nhm.ches.ua.edu/masters-in-human-nutrition.html
We also accept interns who have already earned a graduate degree to complete only the supervised practice portion and receive the same stipend. All graduates from our program will receive a verification statement and along with their graduate degree, be ready to take the registration exam for dietitians.
Dedication: We have a very dedicated staff of dietitian preceptors. More than half of the preceptors have a minimum of 10 years’ experience and many graduated from this very internship program. They all enjoy working with our interns!
Small intern to director ratio: Our small class size of six (6) interns means you will get individualized attention from the internship director. We also provide professional development training, and you’ll have a mentor.
One to one intern to preceptor ratio: With the exception of the Administrative/ Management rotation, only one intern is assigned to a preceptor at a time, allowing for maximum attention for your learning experience. You will work alongside the preceptor dietitian and receive constructive feedback to help build your confidence and skills as you progress through each rotation.
Learn by doing: Instead of shadowing and computerized simulations, we specialize in “hands-on learning”. All rotations and projects allow you to learn by doing the same work the registered dietitian does in clinical, community, food service and managerial settings. Throughout the internship, you’ll have a variety of opportunities to gradually apply your knowledge and build on your abilities to become the nutrition expert.
The Clinical Capstone: Our Program concludes with four (4) weeks of staff relief during the month of May. This is when you take over as the “clinical dietitian” and demonstrate your knowledge, skills and abilities to work as the sole dietitian in a specific area or ward of your choice at the VA. As appropriate, you will see all the patients, fully participate in the medical rounds or interdisciplinary team meetings, teach classes, calculate enteral or TPN feedings, make MNT recommendations and complete the computerized chart note using the Nutrition Care Process. This final “rotation” is designed to prepare you to step into your first entry-level position as a clinical dietitian and be confident and successful!
Increased job opportunities: Because graduates from our Program are highly trained they have been able to obtain jobs in the areas of clinical dietetics, pediatrics, management, foodservice, research, university education, wellness, sports nutrition, marketing, pharmaceutical sales, long term care, weight management, renal dialysis and a variety of community positions. We are available to assist you in finding employment in the government or in the private sector. With over 150 VA Medical Centers across the country, you will have increased opportunities to work for the VA after graduation, if desired. While the pay for entry-level dietetic positions varies across the country, within 5 years, most dietitians in the VA earn a higher salary than those who have been working in the private sector for 20 years!
There is NO FEE to attend or to apply to our internship program. There is a fee to apply to the University of Alabama. Interns in our program receive a stipend of approximately $12,400 before taxes, which is paid bi-weekly throughout the supervised practice portion of the internship. Interns also earn paid vacation and sick leave along with nine paid Federal holidays throughout the program.
I hope you will take all these points into consideration when applying to internship programs and when making your decision of how to rank your program choices. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (314) 652-4100, ext. 64594, or e-mail me at Angela.Franlkin@va.gov , Acting Internship Director.