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Building a Career: 3 Things to Look for in a Dietetic Internship

It can be hard to break into an industry and find the right opportunity, particularly if you want to stay close to home. Since 2011, Morrison Healthcare has worked to train the next generation of Registered Dietitians through its industry leading dietetic internship.

The Dietetic Internship Program provides a customized educational and training experience. Part of the strength of the program lies with Morrison Healthcare (MHC). As one of the nation’s leading employers of dietitians, MHC provides opportunities for interns to train under dedicated professional dietetic leadership and gain practice experience in a variety of settings with current trends and requirements to be a successful professional.

Job Opportunities Close to Home

Morrison Healthcare’s Dietetic Internship (MHC DI) provides an innovative learning experience that is customized to the location of the intern. The goal is to educate and train future dietitians so they are excited about establishing and maintaining a lifelong profession.

“One of our biggest differentiators is that we have a lot of geographic locations to place students,” said Sunitha Zechariah, PhD, RDN, LD, CNSC, FAND, Associate Director, Dietetic Internship. “We also have the capacity to hire them. For the majority of our interns, we have a job opportunity waiting for them.”

When the program first began, they took about 20 students. It has grown to more than 65 students per year. This growth is a strong indication of the value students place on the experience.

“It’s a competitive program,” said Zechariah. “We take pride in educating and training the next generation of dietitians. This program puts them in a position to be successful. Our track record speaks for itself.”

Customized Experience

MHC DI is about creating a customized experience that caters to the career aspirations of the student. The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) accredited internship is structured for interns to complete required competencies to meet exam requirements set by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, but it’s more than that.

It’s a hands-on learning opportunity.

“They are getting experience out of their internship beyond just the basics,” said Michelle Sagristano, MS, RDN, Associate Director, Dietetic Internship. “They can go anywhere. They aren’t following the same path. They have so many options. It’s nice to watch them find themselves and to see where they go.”

That translates into a few unique selling points for MHC DI’s  program.

“Unlike most internship programs, we place them in a rotation and help them find a job,” said Sagristano. “It’s not something you see with every internship, but we believe it’s an important part of the program and a key to helping our interns start out on the right foot.”

Sagristano and the team pride themselves on finding the right experience for interns. Beyond healthcare, the program is backed by Morrison Healthcare’s parent company, Compass Group, which can provide additional exposure to other industries. And if a student is interested in a niche space of dietetic work, the program has connections across the country to find hands-on experience in any industry.

It’s a customized experience that forms the building blocks of a career.

The Move from Student to Colleague

The program’s leadership takes pride in seeing students succeed. More than half of the program’s graduates take a role with Morrison Healthcare and other Compass sectors following graduation, while others go on to thrive in other sectors.

“What’s most rewarding is seeing these interns become colleagues,” said Zechariah. “Some of them are doing such fabulous things. Many of them have gone on to become regional leaders by building impressive careers, either through private practice or the corporate world. There are so many cool stories that it is rewarding to hear what our once interns and students are doing now.”

The program creates raving fans, who stay involved long past graduation.

“We have a lot of previous graduates who are shining stars now,” said Zechariah. “Many of those come back to work with our current students as preceptors. It’s great to continue to engage with students and see where their careers take them.”

The program takes dedication, including 28 weeks for full time interns (34 weeks for interns in graduate school) and a minimum of 1000 hours of supervised practice. It is a robust program that molds interns into dietitians.

Internship placements for this program year starts in August. For a detailed breakdown of MHC DI’s program and schedule, visit the website.

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