6 Tips on Securing Preceptors for Distance Dietetic Internships

Young woman on phone smiling and looking at laptop
Photo: gpointstudio/iStock/Thinkstock

Many students rule out applying to distance programs because they think it’s too hard to find preceptors. Don’t let this be you! I don’t regret one second of my distance program, which allowed me to stay in my location of choice while saving a boatload of money. Here are six tips to help you find preceptors and create the internship of your dreams.

Follow Your Passions

Before you start picking your rotations, ask yourself what your interests are and see if you can match them to your rotations. Doing this will not only create a more enjoyable experience for you, but also will help you get your foot in the door and make connections in the area you want to work in. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest advantages of a distance program. You can tailor it to you!

Reach Out Way Earlier Than You Think You Should

Reaching out early makes a potential preceptor more likely to say yes because they will have a clearer calendar and lots of time to prepare. Most internships will require you to at least have your clinical rotation — the hardest one to find! — set up when you submit to DICAS, so starting the process at least a few months before the deadline is a good idea.

Really Do Your Research

When I was contacting potential preceptors for my clinical rotation, I played phone tag for weeks with one RDN. When we finally connected, I learned her facility was a rehabilitation hospital. My internship required an acute-care clinical setting, so her facility would not qualify. If I had just done a little bit of research on the hospital’s website I would have known this and could have saved my time and hers. Bottom line? Do your research and know who you are calling before you pick up the phone.

Have Your Info Ready

If a potential preceptor asks how many weeks you would need at the facility and you don’t know, that doesn’t help them or you. At a minimum, know the date you would be starting, how many weeks/hours are required, the specific projects and duties you need to complete, and if there are any forms or contracts they need to fill out.

Become a Private Investigator

Use any avenue you can to find preceptor contact information. LinkedIn is an excellent and underutilized resource for this. Let’s say you are looking to intern with an RDN at X Hospital. If you type “X Hospital Dietitian” into the LinkedIn search bar, an RDN working at X Hospital just might come up, as well as their contact info. Attending your local Academy affiliate meetings is another great resource, and don’t forget that the Academy also has a great preceptor database!

Stay Hopeful

Don’t expect everyone you contact to say yes to you right away. I probably contacted 20 people before I got a yes for my clinical rotation. If you keep on keepin’ on, eventually you will find an awesome placement! This process truly is a great lesson in persistence, networking and putting yourself out there — and you will be better for it.  Don’t give up hope!

Catherine Brennan
Catherine Brennan, NDTR, CLC, is a dietetic intern at the University of Delaware in Providence, RI. Cate has a strong interest in health disparities, food justice and breastfeeding. Follow her at Feeling Full Nutrition.