Nutrition and dietetic interns use lab experience to mentor undergraduates

Contact: Chris Hybels

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—"It was a little nerve wracking, but it was good," said Sarah Cook, a nutrition and dietetics student.

During Cook's medical nutrition therapy course, interns from Western Michigan University's nutrition and dietetics program helped undergraduates learn how to screen for blood pressure and glucose levels. As part of the course curriculum students have to be able to perform clinical skills to assess, evaluate and monitor their client's vitals. This information empowers them to develop personalized dietary strategies that promote metabolic health and overall well-being.

"This was the first time that we've had the interns help facilitate with the medical nutrition therapy lab with undergrads," says Megan Wilkinson, faculty specialist II. "This was a great opportunity for the students and interns to connect, provide support to sharpen their clinical skills together."

Interns started the lab by teaching students how to use a manual blood pressure cuff. Students learned how to read diastolic and systolic measurements and how to listen using a stethoscope. Understanding blood pressure gives nutritionists information about their client's diets and can also indicate if there are more serious issues, like hypertension and hypotension. Both of which can affect the heart, brain and other parts of the body.

Students and interns finished the class by performing finger pricks to measure each other's glucose levels. By using a lancet, they drew each other's blood and collected a sample using a test strip and inserted it into a blood glucose meter. Like blood pressure, understanding a client glucose level can give nutritionists a clearer understanding of their client's health.

"I think undergrad students can learn that when it comes to clinical skills, it isn't always as rigid as they think it needs to be," says Lina Brown, a nutrition and dietetics intern. "I think the lab was also beneficial because as interns, we know how it was as an undergrad. A lot of them have the same teachers, the same experiences and it just makes us a more closely knit community."


Dietitians are nutrition experts who apply the science of food and nutrition to settings in medicine, community health, wellness and food service operations. The WMU programs in nutrition and dietetics prepare students who desire to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) or nutrition and dietitian technician registered (DTR). Both WMU programs are recognized by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). To learn more about the internship and undergraduate programs, visit the nutrition and dietetics website.

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