Direct Economic Benefits Associated With Dietetic Internships

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Nutrition and Food Systems


Objective We explored the direct economic benefits of hospital dietetics departments sponsoring an internships for dietetics students.

Design Forty-five dietetics departments in US hospitals participated in a mail survey that involved comprehensive data collection procedures using three instruments, including activity logs recorded by 298 dietitians and interns.

Main outcome measures Direct benefits were defined as the net student labor provided to the department during routine and staff relief experiences that released professional labor for other work. Net student productivity during routine assignments was calculated by subtracting the time dietitians spent teaching during a typical work week from the amount of time dietetic interns spent performing professional services without direct supervision. Student productivity during staff relief rotations was calculated by multiplying the number of students assigned to this type of experience by the length of the rotation.

Results While involved in routine learning experiences, dietetic interns provided a direct benefit. The difference between the time interns spent in independent, professional service in the departments and the time dietitians spent in activities designed specifically for teaching was a mean of 29 hours in favor of the students. All departments received a direct benefit from assigning dietetic interns to a staff relief rotation. The median number of weeks of student labor gained by the departments per year was 24.

Statistical analyses A paired t test was used to analyze the difference between the time dietitians devoted to teaching interns and the time students spent in independent, professional service in the departments. The difference was very highly significant (P<.001)

Applications This study is a beginning step in objectively documenting positive outcomes associated with sponsoring a dietetic internship. It also represents a model that could be used by program directors to study the economic impact of their supervised practice program on the sponsoring organization.

Publication Title

Journal of the American Dietetic Association





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