Nutrition Department

Dietetic Internship Program

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dietetic Internship
Established 1994

The NIH Dietetic Internship meets the supervised practice experience required to take the Commission on Dietetics Registration's Registration Examination for Dietitians. The NIH Dietetic Internship meets the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics' (ACEND) Accreditation Standards, including core competencies for the Registered Dietitian and also provides a concentration in Clinical Nutrition Research.

To be eligible to apply to the NIH Dietetic Internship, applicants must have successfully completed a Didactic Program in Nutrition and Dietetics accredited by ACEND and a minimum of a bachelor's degree from a US regionally-accredited college or university or a foreign equivalent. For more specifics, please see the Admission Requirements section of this website.

The NIH Dietetic Internship is committed to preparing you for a successful career in the field of nutrition. The program provides a thorough foundation in the theory and application of medical nutrition therapy (MNT); exposes interns to research design, methodology, analysis, and publication; strengthens professional presentation, communication, and writing skills; and meets individual needs and interests. Planned experiences promote management skills through food service rotations and projects. Classes and conferences enrich rotations.

The NIH Dietetic Internship is a 45 week long program which starts in August/September and runs through June/July annually. The program provides a minimum of 1200 hours of supervised practice.

The NIH Dietetic Internship is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995, 1-(800)-877-1600 extension 5400. 

Clinical rotations provide an opportunity to develop skills in nutrition screening and assessment; to implement nutrition care plans; to document nutrition care provided; and to monitor outcomes of the nutrition plan. Interns communicate with other members of the healthcare team during daily rounds, patient care conferences, and routine discussions with nurses, doctors, and therapists.

The Clinical Nutrition Service of the NIH Clinical Center (CC) has implemented the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Nutrition Care Process as their standard of practice. All RDs and interns identify nutrition diagnoses for each patient assessed and use standardized terminology in documentation.

Clinical Research rotations provide experience working with RDs who support the research needs of Clinical Center patients and serve as co-investigators on a wide variety of research protocols. Nutrition research conducted within the CC represents a cross-section of intramural initiatives. The primary research rotation takes place on the NIH Clinical Center's Metabolic Clinical Research Unit.

The major areas of nutrition research include:

  • Controlled Nutrient Research Diets and Test Meals
    Controlled nutrient diets and test meals are provided using controlled preparation techniques and precision weighing. Research diets may be used for the investigation of human metabolism, to control for diet variability, or to determine taste preferences and appetite changes. Calculation of diet composition and actual patient intake can be made available as part of the research service.
  • Body Composition Analysis
    Defining and bench-marking changes in body composition as related to disease progression, treatment course, or as a predictor of outcome is widely used in studies of child health, obesity, cardiac disease, HIV, and cancer. Techniques include bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), anthropometric measurements, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), computer tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Dietary Intake Assessment
    Estimation of dietary intake of specific nutrients in subjects is used to evaluate the impact of disease progression and/or interventions. Food records, recalls, and questionnaires are used to assess intakes of energy, macronutrients, calcium, fatty acids, isoflavones and other nutrients.

Community rotations and experiences allow interns to educate groups on healthful eating and learn about the nutritional needs of diverse groups and populations. Just as importantly, interns will experience the value of community involvement.

During Food Service Management and Administration rotations, interns learn about institutional meal delivery systems; menu management and analysis for modified and research diets; recipe development; cost control; and strategies to implement hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) principles to ensure food safety. Food Service projects will allow interns to collect and interpret data for quality assurance (QA) purposes.

NIH's location near the United States (US) Capitol provides unique opportunities to network with the leaders who determine the government's nutrition policies and agencies that interpret those policies for consumers. Interns can explore these opportunities more in their Elective rotations.

Finally, interns are given ample opportunity to enhance their professional skills. Interns plan and organize creative presentations using the latest computer applications and presentation technology. Experiences planning National Nutrition Month programs, giving presentations at local elementary schools, and participating in NIH research symposiums give interns the confidence to perform in community and professional arenas. Interns have the opportunity to strengthen writing skills by developing patient education materials and writing case studies. Interns work together on a research project which they present as an abstract, poster, journal or newsletter article, and oral presentation. The NIH Dietetic Internship provides excellent preparation for a career in dietetics.

Consider the NIH Dietetic Internship. You will complete your program with the confidence that you are well prepared to enter the highly challenging and competitive field of nutrition.

Effective January 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) will require a minimum of a master's degree to be eligible to take the credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). In order to be approved for registration examination eligibility with a bachelor's degree, an individual must meet all eligibility requirements and be submitted into CDR's Registration Eligibility Processing System (REPS) before 12:00 midnight Central Time, December 31, 2023. For more information about this requirement, visit CDR's website.

In addition, CDR requires that individuals complete coursework and supervised practice in program(s) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Graduates who successfully complete the ACEND-accredited dietetic internship program at the National Institutes of Health are eligible to apply to take the CDR credentialing exam to become an RDN.

In most states, graduates also must obtain licensure or certification to practice. For more information about state licensure requirements, visit CDR's website.

View more information about educational pathways to become a RDN.

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This page last updated on 05/25/2022

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