My RD Journey

From Undergrad -> Internship -> RD -> Private Practice!


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My First Month – What Does Success Look Like?

It has been just about a month since I decided to leave my full-time job and grow my private practice. This week has been a bit weird for me since it is the first without my intern (aka it is just me…and my cat…all day long). I forgot how much random chit-chat filled the days! Even just driving with someone else and reviewing the morning’s class was something I really missed.

Since we are almost to the New Year, I didn’t have a lot of appointments scheduled for the week and I was being to feel a business slump. I started thinking, “Why are you doing this” and “What were you thinking leaving your full-time job” I mean no business means no paycheck! Once I stopped letting my emotions get the best of me, I realized that it is completely normal to have a slow down during this time (it happened at my previous job). I also realized that I will be “making up” for this in January and February when I had more appointments.

I have been reading “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss this week and one of the biggest things that struck me was actually in the first couple of pages when Ferriss had been asking someone what they thought of when they heard the word “successful.” Success. That was the key that I had been missing and what I needed to think about to change my thoughts into more positive ones. The goal I always wanted was to be in full-time private practice and I had accomplished that 4-weeks ago. Now, I wasn’t sure what my new “success” looked like. Sure, I wanted to build partnerships and gain clientele; however, I wasn’t envisioning my practice in the next month, year, or decade. While I haven’t quite figured out what my vision is for my practice, I know once I determine that that my efforts will feel like they have more purpose and I am not just spinning my wheels so I don’t fail.

What Else I Have Learned

Get ahead when you have downtime – What did I do the past few weeks with limited number of appointments? I followed up on headaches (like insurance calls), planned out my Facebook posts for my page, and set a schedule for myself. I already know that January/February is going to be a lot busier for me than December was, so I planned some of the menial tasks now to get them out of the way.

Track your expenses – I also took some time this month to review my yearly finances. It really helped me to set practical goals once I determined what I needed to make to break even and then what I actually wanted to make. From that, I figured out how many clients I needed to see per month to reach my financial goals.

Google Docs/Drive is awesome – I have been using this for minutes for committees I am in and it is great! I also started tracking my mileage on a Google Drive spreadsheet instead of writing it on paper. I feel like this helps to streamline a lot for me since I can access it on the go.

Nothing is really a disaster – Last week in my cooking class, the building’s power shut off due to a Septa issue and Peco needing to do an emergency shut off to fix something. So, to paint you a picture of this, I am making a soup for class and I have most of the ingredients prepped so I can just dump everything in the pot to cook in time. I also planned on making veggie chips with my mandoline. Oh, and this is 20 minutes before class is supposed to start. I was told to try and talk through the recipe so people felt like they got something out of the class when they arrived. I am pretty good on my feet; however, I was thinking to myself how am I going to take up 1-hour of time talking and not making anything (with no back-up food). What did I do? I made it fun, because what else is there? I told the class to pretend the onions were sizzling and I had them “smell” the lovely blends. You learn a lot about yourself while doing a “cooking” class in partial darkness (only emergency lights). Fast-foward a bit and the power returns mid-way through the class, I speed up the recipe, and everyone got to eat and enjoy the soup/chips. I got so many compliments on how I handled the class in the dark and I felt awesome. So, that was one for the books.

What I am Still Working On

-Not letting work consume me or stress over thinking that I am not doing “enough.”

-Not over planning so much that I don’t actually do anything but plan.

-Figuring out “office hours” (aka what is my cut-off time for answering calls and emails?)

-Spending some time de-stressing with meditation, playing the piano, or exercising.

Hope everyone has a great New Year! I am excited to see what 2017 has in store 🙂

Check out my previous blogs to see why I made the jump to private practice +  Weeks 1 and 3 🙂

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Second Week in Private Practice – 3 Partnership Tips

This week definitely felt more comfortable for me being in private practice. It started to feel like my career and less like I was on a vacation from the full-time job I left! I focused a lot on building partnerships and reaching out to different facilities to find out if they had a dietitian they referred to already. Two major things I learned were that I should have looked back at the business plan I made in grad school for my practice and that I should have thought more about who/what I wanted to target before spending time researching every facility in my area (thank goodness for my intern). This week, my plan is to develop a more clear marketing and outreach strategy so my efforts are more targeted.

Although it was close to the holidays, I wanted to make some connections now in order to prepare for January when more people want to lose weight and eat better. I reached out to about 30 different facilities this week; however, I only spoke with about 5 that could have been potential partnerships. Three places let me know they already had a Dietitian and the rest didn’t get back to me. My plan is to reach out to those companies next week. Below are the things I learned this week while trying to build partnerships:

1. You can’t expect to partner with everyone. 

As I just mentioned, I started by gathering a list of practically every gym, doctor’s office, community center, you name it, in my area. After a few calls and emails, I realized that this was a terrible strategy. I needed to narrow down my focus first and I began to think about the facilities that I would want to partner with. Fitness centers and community centers were ones that I felt would make great connections and they also may be a little easier to speak to if they were individually owned versus with a large corporation. I also realized that you don’t need 30 partnerships to be successful. I already had 5 good ones from the last year or so and that drove a nice amount of clientele to me. I don’t want to spread myself too thin and not provide a quality interaction or service to those I do end up partnering with.

2. Think about the method you are using for outreach.

When I first thought about reaching out to companies/doctors’ offices, my plan was to just call around to everyone on the list I had developed. I planned a short blurb of what to say when I called. I realized that it was hard to just cold call without knowing who to speak with and when you would get off of hold. I decided to send an email first with a short description about myself and reason for contact. I linked my website and contact information and stated I would follow-up in person. This initial email helped me weed out those who already had Dietitians and also narrow down the correct contact person. I have heard from other Dietitians that they prefer to just show up in the office and try to speak to someone. Depending on how you present yourself, either way could work just fine. One thing to remember here is that in any initial contact (whether it is email, phone, or in-person) be sure to state how the partnership can benefit them.

3. Prep before your meeting with potential partners. 

Before I went in for a meeting with any potential partner, I did a more involved investigation on their company. Who are they? What do they promote? Do they have a well-developed website (could help to market having a Dietitian)? I did a little bit of research before my initial contact to be sure they would be a company I wanted to align with. I always came to a meeting prepared with my business cards, short flyer about myself and my services, and list of questions. I also brought my resume with me as a back up. I get comments from people on how young I look, and I had a few people act condescending because of that. If anyone questions my experience for being so young, I pull out my resume and show them the organizations I am a part of, my education, and past working experiences. Usually, that does the trick 🙂 Dressing very professional (blazer and all) and being clear and concise in how I spoke also helped a lot.

With any type of new partnership, I always found that it was best to be honest about all of my concerns up front. I didn’t want to spend my time building a relationship without fleshing out all of the details that could later harm the business. When I met with different people, I also thought about any red flags during the conversation and how this may impact a business relationship later on. I like to tour any facility before making a commitment and thinking/asking about if the clientele are really interested in nutritional services.

There is a lot to think about with building partnerships; however, the more prepared you can be before the initial meeting the better. Also, don’t commit to anything at the first meeting. Gather notes and review at home (or in your office) all the pros and cons to the partnership. Often in meetings something sounds like a great opportunity (and some people can be quite pushy about it); however, putting it on paper later can show you that it won’t be as beneficial for you! Lastly, be okay with the fact that sometimes you just need to walk away.


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My First Week in Full-Time Private Practice

Well, I have officially made it through my first week in full-time private practice! It felt so odd to say to people that I was my own boss. It felt even weirder to not have to go to one facility (my full-time job) for 40 hours/week. It felt totally different for me to JUST do my practice and not juggle it with my full-time gig. I would see clients here or there and chunk everything I needed to follow-up on (insurance claims, billing, etc) on my days off. It felt good to just focus my time and energy on my practice for once.

I was lucky to have an intern with me for my first week. She was with me during my full-time job and still has 2 weeks left to go during her dietetic internship. I love having interns; however, I especially loved having this one since she was able to be apart of my transition to full-time private practice (also, she’s pretty awesome). Since I work out of my home, there was always the want to stop what I was doing to do the dishes or various house chores. I felt like having an intern with me really pushed me to be productive in the hours of the day that she was there. Once she moves on to her clinical rotation, I am planning to translate this type of work schedule into my own. I want to set up “hours” I am working and really stick to it. Everything else can wait!

After my first week, I started to think more on what kind of schedule I wanted to build for myself. While I don’t have an exact plan just yet, I do know that I want to keep 3-4 days of clients/classes and at least one full day dedicated to insurance calls and office type work. I already know the days that I see clients back-to-back that I don’t get much else done on the back end of things.

One huge thing I realized this week is just how much my email/notifications are distractions! Every time my phone went off, I checked the email in case I needed to respond. This was a huge concentration breaker. I took some advice from friends/family/books and set aside windows of time where I would answer emails. Usually, I check email in the AM, mid-day, and at night (7pm or so). I want to cut this back to twice per day instead. I find I am way more productive if I focus on one task at a time instead of just switching back and forth. This has been harder to stick with than I thought, but turning my sound off on my phone really helped!

One last thing I learned from my first week was that I needed to prioritize and not overbook myself. I would stick 15-20 items on my list to do for the day and only end up getting to maybe 10-15 of them. I would never know how long I would be on hold with an insurance company for a claim status, or what questions my intern would ask, or what phone calls came in. Though I would get a lot accomplished, I still was bummed I couldn’t do EVERYTHING. Honestly, that is so unrealistic! Not only am I putting undue pressure on myself, but I am also making my daily goals ones that I know I won’t reach. For this week, I decided to make a priority list and a to-do list. My goal was to complete the priority list and if possible do 1-2 items on the to-do list. This was way more manageable and I felt more accomplished at the end of the day.

I have been keeping a journal of everything I have learned thus far, so each week I will share with you my tips, tricks, slip-ups, and more!


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Tips for Finding Dietetic Preceptors

If you decide to go with a distance dietetic internship, you will need to find your own preceptors prior to the application process. Finding preceptors is a very difficult and lengthy process. I would definitely suggest starting early! Not only are there a lot of paperwork and meetings involved; however, you are competing with other possible interns for those positions. Some facilities will only take 1-2 interns per year.

 

Before you begin to search for facilities and preceptors, review your possible internships. Find out what facilities they will allow you to use. The most important factor is your clinical rotation. Most, if not all, internships will want you to have a inpatient clinical facility set before you even apply. They want this because the inpatient clinical rotation usually the hardest rotation to set. For your food service management rotation, internships will want you at a school location, hospital kitchen, or both. Again, this is important to review before you start your search for preceptors.

 

It is always best to contact preceptors via phone call first. I found that with email, I was either getting overlooked or spammed. I often didn’t know who the head person was to email anyway. Also, emails tend to get pushed by the wayside, as compared to phone calls. Prepare a little blurb of what you want to say on the phone prior to calling. I tend to have a mind blank, so it was helpful to have an outline of my name, why I was calling, how long the rotation was, and a callback number. You will be surprised at what you forget after calling a multiple facilities. I first started off with a list of about 60 hospitals. If you were wondering, I called them all…twice…at least. Calling hospitals for an inpatient clinical rotation was quite difficult. I found many facilities: 1. Had contracts with other schools for interns, 2. Had contracts with companies like Aramark and Sodexo and didn’t take other interns, 3. Didn’t have enough dietitians on staff for more than 1 intern, and I was too late for that spot, 4. Never called me back from the 3 voicemails I left. That being said, I did find my needed facilities, it just took a lot of patience.

 

After you get through to a preceptor, they will want to meet you. It is best to be clear, prior to any meeting, what your needs are for the internship. You don’t want to drive all the way out to meet a preceptor and find out that they can’t have you come for the full rotation time. Also, I found that my potential preceptors liked that I sent the internship forms to them prior to the meeting. This gave them a chance to either fill it out beforehand or review it to ask me questions when I was there. Most of this meeting will consist of paperwork, basic interview questions, and a tour of the facility. Dress to impress! Usually, if a preceptor wants to meet you face-to-face, they already are set on having you use their facility as part of your rotation. They need this time to make sure they understand everything that is needed, the time you will be there, forms you and they will have to fill out, etc. They also want to make sure you are not crazy 🙂

 

Don’t give up on finding preceptors! If you really get stuck, head to the yellow pages! Also, some internships will give you suggestions on facilities prior interns had used. (This is usually a last resort). Lastly, be persistent but not pushy. You may need to call a facility more than once. Just be sure to give them a week to get back to you before you call again. Preceptors are already very busy, so be respectful of their time.

 

As always, good luck!