Preceptors. Preceptors are the backbone of your internship, they are the registered dietitians and other professionals that put the “supervised” in supervised practice hours. Without preceptors there would be no internships!
Dietetic internship preceptors are what keep the dietetics profession going.
Preceptors freely give their time to allow dietetic interns to shadow them and learn how to become a dietitian. When you are with your preceptor you will complete competencies (via experiences and projects) set up by your dietetic internship in order to officially complete the rotation and become a RD. These competencies are necessary to complete your program and become a registered dietitian nutritionist.
Preceptor requirements vary by program and it is best to look at each program’s website for specific preceptor information! To get started, check out Iowa State University’s distance DI and Priority Nutrition Care’s distance DI for examples of how to find preceptors for your dietetic internship.
Also, don’t forget to join the All Access Internships Facebook Group to ask fellow applicants and current dietetic interns all about their experiences finding preceptors!
WHY YOU MIGHT NEED PRECEPTORS
Everyone, and I mean everyone, should try searching for preceptors because of the following reasons:
If you are applying to a distance dietetic internship…because many of these ask for some or all of your preceptors set up. Here’s my 2-minute video explaining distance DIs. I like distance DIs because they have more spots and anecdotally I found some of my clients with lower GPAs got into distance programs.
If you want / need a unique elective…because some traditional DI programs allow you a certain number of weeks/hours and may ask you to find a preceptor for this yourself. Or, even if they have a list to choose from, maybe you want an elective in a specific area and should find a preceptor in that area on your own. For example, I set up my elective with Weber Shandwick, a PR firm in Chicago, which was all my own doing! I got to experience nutrition communications in my DI, and I really enjoyed it.
If you don’t get matched…because if you want to do second round matching, often the programs available are distance programs or ISPPs. Many (although not all) distance and ISPPs will require preceptors. If this is what you want to get preceptors for, I suggest you use the time between the deadline and Match Day to focus on your preceptor search. Don’t let it distract you during your application time.
If you want to try for an ISPP… Again, because ISPPs will pop up on second round and also be available to you after a no-match situation. What’s an ISPP? Check out my video here. Many (not all) ISPPs require preceptors in a similar way that distance DIs do. Again, you want to go to the program’s website for the exact requirements.
HOW THE HECK DO I FIND PRECEPTORS?!
Get creepy, people. Get rrrrrreal creepy. Reach out to dietitians you know, search on LinkedIn, find past distance interns and see where they did rotations (also via LinkedIn). If you really want to think ahead, try to get a job at a hospital that takes dietetic interns. Then, when you are ready to do the DI, they might be more likely to have you.
If all else fails, get creepy on LinkedIn. Seriously, it works.
Finally, just remember that once you become a dietitian, definitely become a preceptor! The lack of preceptors is actually one of the biggest reasons why the match rate is so low. Remember to pay it forward 😉 And on that note, All Access Internships does elective rotations for dietetic interns, so reach out if you need a preceptor for one of those!