Information for Preceptors

Do you remember your M.S. Program or supervised experiential learning experience?

Most of us do, and the memories we cherish most are of special people--the RDs who helped us learn, grow and some days just survive! Without a doubt, our preceptors served as teachers, mentors, and role models. Though we may not have told them, they influenced our lives and our careers in countless ways. Truly, our preceptors "made" our program.

The graduate student intern applicant who has approached you about being their preceptor intends to apply for the online M.S. Nutrition and Dietetics Program offered by the SUNY Oneonta. This is a one-year program (3 semesters) that has a community emphasis and is designed to encourage interns to remain in their own communities while completing graduate courses that include supervised experiential learning in dietetics. Graduate student interns begin their program in May/June and complete the program the following May.

Minimum admission criteria include:

  • Completing an accredited undergraduate program resulting in a baccalaureate degree in nutrition and dietetics from a U.S. regionally accredited college/university or a foreign degree equivalent to at least a U.S. baccalaureate degree;
  • Verification of Completion (or an Intent to complete form if the applicant has not completed all degree requirements) signed by their undergraduate dietetics program director OR completion of pre-requisite coursework as outlined on the program website
  • If the applicant completed a dietetics program more than two years ago, the applicant will be expected to have work experience in the field and/or additional course work and/or to earn an acceptable score on the admissions exam;
  • An overall undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale;
  • Work and/or volunteer experience in an area related to dietetics.
  • Admission is competitive and meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee that the student will be accepted into the program.

Preference for admission will be given to applicants who are committed to becoming Registered Dietitians and who have:

  • Developed the ability and willingness to assume considerable responsibility for their own learning;
  • Demonstrated the ability to solve problems and work and communicate effectively with others;
  • Demonstrated a commitment to community service and/or service-learning;
  • Applications are reviewed and acted upon without regard to race, color, gender, religion, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, or status as a veteran.

The college will provide preceptors access to the courses taken by the graduate student interns and the opportunity to earn Professional Education Credits.

In these times of staffing shortages, fiscal constraints, and the constant need to "do more with less," you are probably asking yourself, “How will precepting a graduate student benefit me and/or my facility?”

The answer is two-fold. First, graduate students typically 'give back' to their preceptors and facilities by:

  • Developing and conducting in-services education programs for employees.
  • Developing and conducting education programs for patients, clients, other professionals, and the community.
  • Researching and presenting information on the latest care principles, medications, and/or studies.
  • Developing patient, client, and/or employee educational materials.
  • Gathering, analyzing, and reporting performance improvement data.
  • Developing and hosting National Nutrition Month 'health fairs' and other activities to promote nutrition, food safety, and wellness.
  • Completing a wide array of projects, audits, data gathering activities.
  • Providing staff relief in both clinical and management areas.

Second, preceptors have the opportunity:

  1. to earn Professional Education Credits for being a preceptor (complete the form here)

  1. to access College resources for free – such as library collections and resources (described later in this handbook).

  1. to apply to SUNY Oneonta’s MS-Nutrition program and earn your own MS degree (with credit for prior learning!). Our online M.S. Nutrition and Dietetics program offers Registered Dietitians/Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RD/RDN) an affordable, high-quality "seamless approach" to becoming a master's-prepared RD/RDN. You will receive 12 hours of prior learning credit for successful completion of an ACEND-accredited Dietetic Studentship and passing the national registration examination for dietitians. You will then be able to complete the remaining eight courses (24 credits) online in one year or part-time (two to six years). We are a very cost effective choice to earn your MS-degree! Visit our website for more information.

The most valued reward a preceptor receives is the satisfaction and feelings of accomplishment that come with positively influencing a graduate student's transformation into a capable entry-level masters-prepared dietitian. Think about how great it will be when a student you helped prepare calls you to share good news - "I'm a Registered Dietitian!" For more information about the role of a preceptor in our program, please visit the website linked here.

SUNY College at Oneonta provides a variety of resources to assist and support preceptors as they guide graduate students.

Resources that are available and accessed via the internet include:

Access to the services and collections available through the Milne Library including several up-to-date nutrition databases, the nutrition care manual, and other catalogs of other libraries, electronic sources, and resources on the internet.

The library collection consists of approximately 500,000 (print and eBook) volumes. Other collections include magazines, newspapers, and journals in print, microfilm, and electronic formats. The collection also features U.S. government documents, maps, children’s books, multimedia materials, including DVDs and CDs, and the college archives. Serving as a gateway to the world of resources beyond the library’s walls, the library web site provides access to a wide variety of electronic sources, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, periodical indexes, and full text databases of magazine, newspaper, and journal articles. Over 70,000 electronic periodical titles are available to users both on site and through remote access.

Help is available in many forms. Librarians offer individual research assistance by telephone and email, as well as in person.

In order for potential graduate students’ to apply for the SUNY College at Oneonta Online MS-Nutrition & Dietetics Program, applicants must have the support of several Registered Dietitians who are willing to serve as their preceptors. Additional dietitians and/or other professionals may participate as appropriate as additional preceptors.

Preceptor Qualifications

Preceptors are expected to have the knowledge and expertise in their field as evidenced by their having appropriate professional degrees and certifications. Preceptors are also expected to:

  • Have a minimum of 1 year of experience in their field.
  • Be committed to their own lifelong learning. Their resumes should document that they regularly participate in appropriate professional development programs and training.
  • Have interest in and time for guiding, teaching, and assessing a graduate student.

Preceptor Responsibilities

Primary Preceptor

The graduate student's (one) primary preceptor is an experienced Registered Dietitian who provides and/or coordinates supervision for the graduate student throughout the program. This person will submit all preceptor evaluations of the graduate student's work online to the program faculty. The primary preceptor must have daily access to the graduate student and the ability to access and submit documents. A Primary Preceptor Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) must be reviewed and signed by the primary preceptor and included in the graduate student’s application packet.

Secondary Preceptor(s)

The graduate student's one or more secondary preceptors are experienced Registered Dietitians who participate in teaching and supervising the graduate student. These dietitians agree to supervise the graduate student and if the primary preceptor is not able to submit all preceptor evaluations of the graduate student's work to the program faculty. A Secondary Preceptor Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) must be reviewed and signed by the secondary preceptor and included in the graduate student’s application packet.

Additional Preceptor(s)

Beyond a primary and secondary preceptor, all students will need a foodservice, long term care, office for aging, WIC, school foodservice, and CHIP (Community Health Intervention Project) preceptor to complete the program. Students may need additional RD preceptors in renal and pediatrics specialty areas if the primary clinical facility does not offer these experiences. Most of these preceptors must be experienced Registered Dietitians, except for WIC, foodservice, school foodservice, and CHIP as these can be other professionals who will participate in teaching and supervising the graduate student. All preceptors agree to provide information about the graduate student's performance to the graduate student, the primary preceptor, and the program/course instructor(s). An Additional Preceptor Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) must be reviewed and signed by the primary preceptor and included in the graduate student’s application packet.

All preceptors:

  • Must communicate information regarding the graduate student's performance with the graduate student and the primary preceptor on a regular basis.
  • Must agree to abide by the policies and procedures that govern Oneonta's Online MS-Nutrition & Dietetics Program.
  • Maintain the confidentiality of student records, treating students fairly and objectively, and providing regular constructive evaluations.
  • Must agree also to the program's policy that "Students in experiential learning programs shall not routinely replace employees except for planned professional staff experiences".

Soon after a student is appointed as a graduate student, the College will send the contract officer or other administrator of each hospital and community agency listed by the graduate student on the form that follows the "SUNY Affiliation Agreement".

Appropriate facility administrators must sign these agreements/contracts with the College at Oneonta as a condition of the student's final acceptance into the program. Appointments are not final until all required affiliation agreements have been signed by the appropriate representative of the facility and the College and the graduate student has met all other obligations. The purpose of these agreements is to delineate the rights and responsibilities of the facility and SUNY Oneonta.

If a facility wants to use their own contract, the process can be delayed as SUNY counsel will need to undertake a significant review prior to approval. SUNY Oneonta does not require an affiliation agreement with any facility where a student will spend less than 80 hours on-site. Preceptors can indicate on the MOU form whether an agreement will be needed or not so that the business office at SUNY Oneonta will know if contact is necessary.

As a preceptor, your involvement during the application process is critical to the graduate student intern's success in being selected for the M.S. Nutrition and Dietetics Program. Your assistance is needed in suggesting local facilities and other experienced RD preceptors that will provide the graduate student intern with the required experiences in medical nutrition therapy, food service and community nutrition. The experiences are planned on the Preceptor and Facility Form. An applicant's form must show where the graduate student intern will accomplish all required experiences and who will be precepting those experiences.

The intern must submit his/her completed application packet on or before the mid-February deadline. As part of the selection process, potential preceptors may be contacted by the program director to further clarify information contained in the application.

NOTE: All M.S. Nutrition and Dietetics Program appointments are tentative until the college has sent and received back the completed "SUNY Affiliation Agreements" signed by the facility and the college after the graduate student intern applicant is selected to the online M.S. Nutrition and Dietetics Program. Here's what happens once a graduate student intern submits his/her materials to the SUNY Oneonta online application system.

March: Program Director, Program faculty, and/or members of the online M.S. Nutrition and Dietetics Program selection committee contact designated primary preceptors to discuss the online program. The College's Office of Finance and Administration mails the "SUNY Affiliation Agreement" to the facilities for initial review.

April: Applicants receive notification of online M.S. Nutrition and Dietetics Program appointments from Graduate Admissions/the Program.

May: Preceptors provide graduate student intern with a list of facility expectations to complete prior to the M.S. Nutrition and Dietetics Program (example - immunizations, orientations, HIPAA training, medical abbreviations used in the facility, etc.). Preceptors are encouraged to review the online M.S. Nutrition and Dietetics Program program policies. (Required reading for interns.)

End of May (Orientation): Virtual student and preceptor orientation (held virtually and separately each year)

June: First semester courses begin combined with supervised experiential learning hours.

June-July: First semester courses continue combined with supervised experiential learning hours

Late August: Fall semester courses begin combined with supervised experiential learning hours

End of December - Mid-January: Intern vacation

Mid-January: Spring semester courses begin combined with supervised experiential learning hours

May: Graduate student interns complete online M.S. Nutrition and Dietetics Program

Guidance

The following are important points to help make your life easier when supervising/teaching interns.

  • Graduate student interns want to be in the program. This is their dream, goal, career.
  • Graduate student interns, even those with considerable life and work experience, have a great deal to learn. In the beginning, of each new experience, talk with them about what you are doing and why you are doing it.
  • Graduate student interns learn best by doing. The more hands-on experiences, the better. They need your guidance and constructive suggestions as they learn and begin to apply theory to practice.
  • The goal is for interns to develop the knowledge and skills expected of an entry-level dietitian. They will develop specialized knowledge and skills as they progress in their careers.
  • Preceptors should identify and recognize intern strengths and weaknesses at the beginning of the program and periodically thereafter. It is important for both the graduate student intern and the preceptor to have realistic expectations.
  • Address issues and concerns early, fully, frequently and honestly.
  • Encourage and support your intern's development of independence yet always require accountability.
  • An intern's desire to learn and present a positive attitude are as important as innate intelligence or ability.
  • Graduate student interns will make mistakes in their program. Help them learn from them. This is their training ground for the real world.
  • Be upbeat, positive, supportive and caring. It goes a long way.
  • Communicate expectations and rules clearly, early and frequently.
  • Communicate with the course instructor and/or program director anytime you think it appropriate.
  • Faculty members at SUNY Oneonta participated in the development of a Preceptor Training Program that is being offered free of charge by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). We are confident that you will find this to be worth your time and CPE's are awarded upon completion.

Additional guidance will be provided to preceptors via training at orientation and the program's Preceptor Handbook which will be sent out via email at the start of the program.

Evaluation

Preceptors help graduate students develop the expected entry-level competencies by guiding their experiential learning and by providing constructive feedback regularly. The program faculty has developed, in conjunction with previous preceptors and members of the Program Advisory Committee, several checklists and rubrics for use in assessing the graduate student's learning.

All the evaluation forms will be available as Word documents to preceptors in each online course, which will be offered via Blackboard through SUNY College at Oneonta. Each primary preceptor will be able to download each document, fill it out, and then submit it to the course instructor as an integral part of each course. Other preceptors working with the graduate student provide the primary preceptor input for the assessments as appropriate.

Graduate students are expected to complete regular self-assessments that are identical to those that preceptors complete. Graduate students share their self-assessments with preceptors when they meet. The focus of the graduate student-preceptor conference can then be on areas where the graduate student and preceptor differ in their assessment of the graduate student's level of competence. Another focus of the regularly planned graduate student-preceptor conference is planning of experiences so that the graduate student can continue to grow in both knowledge and skill.

The program director and other faculty are available to preceptors or interns have questions about assessment of teaching and learning.

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