The VA Caribbean Dietetic Internship

a rendering of a building in the US VA Caribbean

Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope you were able to enjoy the holiday weekend in a safe and responsible way. It rained a lot this weekend in Central Texas, so I didn’t do much but sleep. 🙂 In honor of summer somewhat officially kicking off with Memorial Weekend, I thought I’d share an internship that gives off vacation vibes. So today’s internship post discusses the VA Caribbean Dietetic Internship. Here’s all you need to know about this DI.

VA Caribbean Dietetic Internship Basics

Since I mostly share internships connected to schools, I should explain a little more about the VA. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a massive health care system for veterans that includes 144 VA Medical Centers and over 1,200 outpatient sites (va.gov). Many of these medical centers offer a rigorous dietetic internship.

The VA Caribbean in San Juan, Puerto Rico offers a 51-week non-degree dietetic internship (July to July). The program accepts 8 applicants each spring. 24 people applied last year, which means the program had a 33% acceptance rate. The internship also offers a $14,000 stipend with no cost to the interns for the actual internship. Interns can instead use that money towards personal and professional needs.

Between a high acceptance rate and a stipend, I was surprised that more people don’t apply! However, applicants need to be fluid in both English and Spanish. (The internship director will confirm this in an interview.) This is very important for this U.S. territory where 95% of the population speaks Spanish and less than 10% speak English (worldatlas.com). My guess is that this may hold back some from applying.

VA Caribbean Rotations

The VA Caribbean Dietetic Internship has a clinical and interdisciplinary focus, as well as a sub-concentration in spinal cord injuries. This means that you’ll earn the core of your 1000-1200 hours in clinical settings: intensive care units, home-based health, community living centers, hospice, and outpatient settings. However, like every internship, this one will also include time in community nutrition and food service management rotations.

From what I gather from the internship’s website, most rotations are within the VA Healthcare System. However, some are completed with affiliates in pediatric and health/sport science settings. Interns also spend a week each working with WIC and Head Start, government community nutrition programs for certain parents and their young children. Some other rotations that I thought deserved a highlight include hemodialysis, time with cardiologists, a week with social media video production, and home telehealth.

What Stands Out about the VA Caribbean

What spoke to me most from what I gathered about the VA Caribbean’s dietetic internship are the variety of experiences you will gain from this internship. The VA Healthcare System seems to be very complex and offers opportunities you might not see elsewhere. Part of this is because it is a tertiary healthcare facility, which means many highly specialized healthcare professionals practice there. As an intern you spend about 1-2 weeks in each of your rotations, so you’ll always be on your toes.

You’ll also work with many different populations, disease states and stages of life. The system also has an agreement with the Department of Defense to treat Army, National Guard and Reserve members.

Why Choose the VA Caribbean Dietetic Internship?

The VA Caribbean Dietetic Internship’s mission is “to promote healthcare, excellence in education and the ideal of service to the community, also [sic] encourage the use of research methodology by the dietetic interns.” Their philosophy is to treat people with diverse backgrounds throughout disease states and life cycles, and to understand the latest in social, economic, medical, scientific and technological advances. This internship might be right for you if you…

  • Are familiar with or enjoy Puerto Rico and/or the Caribbean
  • Would prefer an internship with a stipend
  • Want to be challenged by working with highly trained preceptors
  • Would like to focus on clinical settings

Resources

Interested in learning more about the VA Caribbean and their dietetic internship? Here’s some websites that I sourced for information or found useful!

Interested in the Veterans Affairs Caribbean Dietetic Internship? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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