Mar. 28, 2023
CWU Dietetics Student Named Intern of The Year
An internship is often a student’s first steps into the reality of their chosen profession, and for Central Washington University student Jessica Benton, those initial steps have made waves.
Benton, a dietetics master’s student, was awarded the Washington State Dietetics Association’s (WSAND) 2023 Outstanding Dietetic Intern award this year, recognizing her nine months of hard work and dedication across four workplaces. She stood out among more than 50 interns around the state and was honored at the annual WSAND conference earlier this month. She will be featured in the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics journal.
The internship, managed by the CWU Department of Nutrition, has taken Benton to the Yakima Valley Farm Worker’s Clinic, Kittitas Valley Health, MultiCare Yakima Memorial Hospital, and most recently, the West Valley School District in Yakima. Benton served as a dietetic intern with all four organizations, providing insight and guidance into patients’ and students’ dietary needs. She also is working to educate people in her community about good nutritional practices through outreach events and in-services as directed by her workplace.
Benton says the CWU program has helped set her up for the success she has seen over the course of the internship.
“The food science and nutrition program at CWU provided me a foundation of knowledge and skills that I have then been able to apply and put into practice while in the dietetic internship,” she said. “The dietetic internship has been great in that you experience a wide variety of roles that a dietitian can assume in different industries and learn about how they promote health and wellness through diet and nutrition in their division.”
Each year, CWU places nine interns in rotations in the greater Central Washington area. During their nine-month internship, the dietetic interns complete more than 1,000 hours of direct supervision and didactic experience in a variety of settings. The goal of the internship is to graduate students who are then ready to take the National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist exam and be leading experts in the field of nutrition and dietetics.
In addition to taking on roles as a registered dietitian in her rotations, Benton also completed projects, including:
- Presenting on a complex patient case study in the clinical setting
- Creating and presenting an in-service to staff on the topic of oral health in pediatrics
- Hosting health fairs and providing education around sugar content in drinks
- Conducting tray-line assessments
Benton’s preceptors for the internship—all of whom are registered dietitians or nutrition directors—were impressed with her depth of knowledge and her ability to apply it.
“Jessica demonstrated a very thorough understanding of disease states and appropriate nutrition interventions,” they said. “She has strong critical thinking skills, which she applied as she worked very independently and asked questions as appropriate.”
The panel also recognized Benton’s professionalism and confidence, noting that she is “taking the initiative to collaborate with other disciplines.”
One preceptor commented: “At the end of her rotation, she was seamlessly doing registered dietitian (RD) phone visits and running her own RD column on the website.” Another said: “Our team was impressed at her ability to identify nutrition problems and develop appropriate interventions with minimal input once she had gained the experience needed.”
CWU’s Dietetic Internship Director, Katy Williams, said she and her colleagues have been equally impressed by Benton’s approach to her internship.
“Jessica continues to excel at each of her rotations and with all of her preceptors,” Williams said. “They consistently give her high marks on her evaluations, and she frequently exceeds, rather than simply meets, many of the dietitians’ expectations.”
Benton’s internship will wrap up in early June, after which she’ll take the registered dietitian exam and put her strong skillset to work as a professional dietitian. With the experience she has gained at CWU and through the CWU internship, Benton believes she is up to the challenge.
“Upon finishing my internship and passing the RD exam, I hope to work in clinical dietetics in an inpatient setting, assessing patients for malnutrition, implementing nutrition support regimens as needed, and providing nutrition education to patients on their specific disease state or condition,” she said.
Media Contact: Rune Torgersen, Department of Public Affairs, Rune.Torgersen@cwu.edu,