78 percent of nutritional sciences students matched into dietetic internships

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s Department of Nutritional Sciences continues to surpass the national average for dietetic internship acceptance rates.

Students had a 78 percent acceptance rate into dietetic internships for the fall 2015 and spring 2016 application periods. This is an increase from recent years and the third time in the past few years that acceptance rates hit or exceeded 70 percent. The national average hovers around 50 percent.

“This acceptance rate tells us a lot about our caliber of students,” said Mary Dean Coleman-Kelly, director of the dietetics program and assistant professor in the department. “It shows how well students are performing in the classroom, and also how well their predecessors have done in their internships, as many of these programs continue to ask for our students year after year.”

Each dietetic internship requires experience in three core areas: clinical nutrition, food service management, and community nutrition/nutrition education.

Coleman-Kelly attributes the success rate to increasing students’ awareness earlier in the program about the competitiveness of internship placements. She also cites the department’s enhanced guidance of students through the application process and its support of students to identify their strengths and experiences when choosing internships.

An additional factor that may support these placements, she said, is the department’s relatively new field work experience, which became a requirement for all nutritional sciences students about three years ago.

Students complete 300 hours of work under the direction of a registered dietitian nutritionist in one of the following settings: clinical or hospital, food service management, research, industry or grocery stores or private practice.

Since implementing this requirement, the acceptance rate into dietetic internships has increased, Coleman-Kelly said. The first summer following the addition of field work, 78 percent of students were matched into dietetic internships.

“The field work has helped our students shine among their peers at other colleges and universities,” she said. “Our students are gaining the maturity and exposure through this fieldwork. This gives them a leg up with dietetic matches.”

Elizabeth Appleton, a 2016 graduate, will be completing her internship and master’s program in two years at Ohio State in the sports nutrition department. Her internship begins in August.

The internship will consist of rotations within Division I athletes at Ohio State, including in football and other team and individual sports.

“I have always been interested in nutrition’s role in athletics,” Appleton said.

Appleton will complete food service rotations in the athletic department and community rotations with rehabilitation, schools and corporate wellness programs.

She said her undergraduate field experience, under the direction of Kristine Clark, assistant professor and director of the sports nutrition concentration in the department, helped prepare her for this internship.

With Clark, Appleton helped set up fueling stations for the athletes, operated the body composition machine and helped interpret results, independently counseled athletes on their dietary habits and gave presentations to freshmen student athletes about sports nutrition.

“A dietetic internship is an important and needed experience because it allows future dietitians to experience their role in various settings,” Appleton said. “I am excited to see how this internship incorporates athletics into all areas of nutrition.”

Also beginning her internship in August is Rebecca Skotek, a 2016 graduate. While at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, Skotek will complete a clinical rotation, a food service rotation, a community rotation, and a four-week enrichment rotation of her choice in any area of the country.

Skotek is looking to her internship to help her become a leader in her field of nutrition to help tackle the country’s obesity epidemic and other health issues.

“Our generation is full of upcoming young professionals, and we need to be the catalyst for a better and brighter future,” she said. “That is huge in health care right now. The majority of our country is overweight or obese, which in itself can cause a whole multitude of diseases and conditions. Nutrition is more important now than it ever has been. I truly care about people, and I want everyone to be able to lead a healthy and happy fulfilling life.”

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Last Updated August 16, 2016