If you decide to go with a distance dietetic internship, you will need to find your own preceptors prior to the application process. Finding preceptors is a very difficult and lengthy process. I would definitely suggest starting early! Not only are there a lot of paperwork and meetings involved; however, you are competing with other possible interns for those positions. Some facilities will only take 1-2 interns per year.
Before you begin to search for facilities and preceptors, review your possible internships. Find out what facilities they will allow you to use. The most important factor is your clinical rotation. Most, if not all, internships will want you to have a inpatient clinical facility set before you even apply. They want this because the inpatient clinical rotation usually the hardest rotation to set. For your food service management rotation, internships will want you at a school location, hospital kitchen, or both. Again, this is important to review before you start your search for preceptors.
It is always best to contact preceptors via phone call first. I found that with email, I was either getting overlooked or spammed. I often didn’t know who the head person was to email anyway. Also, emails tend to get pushed by the wayside, as compared to phone calls. Prepare a little blurb of what you want to say on the phone prior to calling. I tend to have a mind blank, so it was helpful to have an outline of my name, why I was calling, how long the rotation was, and a callback number. You will be surprised at what you forget after calling a multiple facilities. I first started off with a list of about 60 hospitals. If you were wondering, I called them all…twice…at least. Calling hospitals for an inpatient clinical rotation was quite difficult. I found many facilities: 1. Had contracts with other schools for interns, 2. Had contracts with companies like Aramark and Sodexo and didn’t take other interns, 3. Didn’t have enough dietitians on staff for more than 1 intern, and I was too late for that spot, 4. Never called me back from the 3 voicemails I left. That being said, I did find my needed facilities, it just took a lot of patience.
After you get through to a preceptor, they will want to meet you. It is best to be clear, prior to any meeting, what your needs are for the internship. You don’t want to drive all the way out to meet a preceptor and find out that they can’t have you come for the full rotation time. Also, I found that my potential preceptors liked that I sent the internship forms to them prior to the meeting. This gave them a chance to either fill it out beforehand or review it to ask me questions when I was there. Most of this meeting will consist of paperwork, basic interview questions, and a tour of the facility. Dress to impress! Usually, if a preceptor wants to meet you face-to-face, they already are set on having you use their facility as part of your rotation. They need this time to make sure they understand everything that is needed, the time you will be there, forms you and they will have to fill out, etc. They also want to make sure you are not crazy 🙂
Don’t give up on finding preceptors! If you really get stuck, head to the yellow pages! Also, some internships will give you suggestions on facilities prior interns had used. (This is usually a last resort). Lastly, be persistent but not pushy. You may need to call a facility more than once. Just be sure to give them a week to get back to you before you call again. Preceptors are already very busy, so be respectful of their time.
As always, good luck!