Benefits, Barriers, and Motivators to Training Dietetic Interns in Clinical Settings: A Comparison between Preceptors and Nonpreceptors

Published:October 27, 2017DOI:



      The shortage of supervised practice sites in dietetics is associated with fewer numbers of preceptors available to supervise interns, especially in the clinical setting.


      To identify clinical dietitians’ perceived benefits and challenges of training dietetic interns and to determine key motivators that would entice nonpreceptors to volunteer for the role.


      Registered dietitian nutritionists working in clinical settings completed a semi-structured, audiotaped interview followed by a brief questionnaire.


      Clinical dietitians working in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and outpatient clinics (n=100) participated: 54 preceptors and 46 nonpreceptors.

      Statistical analysis

      Qualitative analysis was conducted using an iterative process to identify and code common themes. T tests were used to compare mean differences between the opinions of preceptors and nonpreceptors.


      Preceptors had approximately 5 more years of experience (mean=14.27±12.09 years) than nonpreceptors (mean=8.83±9.72 years) (P< 0.01). Furthermore, preceptors reported twice as many benefits to mentoring interns (mean=6.7 mentions/participant) as nonpreceptors (mean=3.4 mentions/participant), including knowledge gains and staying current. Lack of time was consistently noted as a barrier in interviews and rated as the greatest barrier in the survey. Both groups rated receiving continuing professional education units (CPEUs) for precepting as the greatest potential motivator for taking on interns.


      Incentive programs should be developed to entice nonpreceptors to take on interns. These programs should include extensive training on the preceptor role and how to alleviate the burden of time spent supervising interns and should provide a significant number of CPEUs to make the added workload worthwhile.


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      R. AbuSabha is a professor and the graduate program director, Nutrition Science Department, The Sage Colleges, Troy, NY.


      M. George is a registered dietitian, The Sage Colleges, Troy, NY.


      C. Muller is a THOR3 tactical performance dietitian, US Army, 1st Special Forces Group (A), Joint Base Lewis McChord, WA.


      J. MacLasco is a public health nutritionist, Bureau of Child & Adult Care Food Program, New York State Department of Health, Menands, NY.


      E. Houghton is a registered dietitian, Slingerlands, NY.


      A. Helm is certified diabetes educator and a professional development glycemic control specialist, Maryview Medical Center, Portsmouth, VA.