Theses Doctoral

Factors Associated With Commitment of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists to the Dietetic Internship Preceptor Role

Butler, Summer

Despite a shortage of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), only half of applicants currently match with a dietetic internship. A key reason is a shortage of preceptors. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to better understand RDNs’ views of the preceptor role. An online survey was sent to a randomly selected sample of 10% of RDNs. A total of 1,170 RDNs completed the survey. The survey collected data on reasons dietitians precept, training received, and incentives. Five scales measured supports, benefits, satisfaction, commitment, and barriers to the preceptor role. Three groups of RDNs—current (37.1%), former (33.6%), and never preceptors (29.3%)—were compared and a regression analysis used to determine factors associated with precepting.

The main reason RDNs precept was to help the field. Two-thirds of respondents would precept if it were their choice, yet only 37% were current preceptors. RDNs were somewhat dissatisfied with incentives. Continuing Professional Education Units (CPEUs) for precepting was the most common incentive (9.3%), while 35.6% received no incentives.

The benefits scale mean scores were similar across the three groups, while current and former preceptors scored significantly higher (p < .001) than the never precepted group on the commitment, satisfaction, and support scales. The never group had significantly higher barriers (p < .001). The top barriers were increased stress from having interns, time-consuming/increased workload, and lack of incentives. Most (69%) RDNs received no preceptor training.

Several factors were associated with being a current preceptor: fewer years as an RDN, Bachelor’s degree as the highest degree, holding a specialization credential, working full-time, working/residing in urban areas, working for a DI program, being on a DI advisory committee, and higher commitment scale scores.

This study provides valuable insights for increasing RDNs who become preceptors, especially as the field transitions to the competency-based Future Education Model, which combines a graduate degree and supervised experiential learning. RDNs can be recruited as preceptors early in their career and encouraged to become members of advisory committees to connect them more to the preceptor role. Training for precepting can be widely provided, incentives improved, and barriers addressed to reduce stress for RDNs to precept.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Koch, Pamela Ann
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
August 27, 2019