My RD Journey

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


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Sprucing Up Nutrition Counseling Sessions

Welcome back to MyRDJourney! With the end of Summer nearing, I have gotten a spike in new clients. It feels good to see my business pick-up after having a previous slump last month. I’m also excited for September since I am running my first paid virtual support group and working with a new company for some contract food demos. I initially had a heavier basis of individual clients; however, I am morphing my business into more online programs/classes. If you are looking to take your business to the next level, you can read my previous blog on that exact topic here.

Today, I wanted to talk about something a bit more personal, the counseling rut. Do you ever start to question your Dietitian-self in counseling skills? Wondering if you are really doing everything you can for your clients? Wondering how to make sessions more effective, especially with long-term clients?

Sometimes counseling can get stagnant. You might feel like you are telling your clients the same things over and over again. The client might not be asking you for much and honestly, they might not know what to even ask for. The flow of your counseling sessions could start to get choppy and even seem forced.

I always felt like the first few sessions with any new client were pretty “easy.” Most came in with a clear idea of what they wanted to get out of the session. The session just seemed to flow with me mainly giving education and answering initial nutrition questions. After a few sessions, the harder work comes in. I started to see a need for more motivational interviewing, as some clients were frustrated that they weren’t hitting their goals as quickly as they anticipated. A lot of my clients at this point “knew what to do;” however, they were just having a hard time “doing it” consistently.

If you hit this point throughout your Dietitian career, that is okay! Knowing how to handle ruts will improve your overall counseling skills and build trust with your clients (ultimately leading to their success).

3 Ways to Get out of a Counseling Rut and Spruce up Nutrition Sessions

1 – Re-Evaluate Their Reason Why
First things first, figure out if your client’s “reason why” has changed. If their “reason why” or motivation for getting healthy has changed, this could mean that their goals, actions, and ultimately feelings are not aligning. This disconnect can impede nutrition progression and cause your sessions to flop.

2 – Ask Open Ended Questions
There are 3 key questions I ask my clients that help to reestablish counseling flow or give talking points and really dig deep:

  • What are you currently struggling with? – Good to ask in the beginning of the session.
  • What do you hope to gain from today’s session? – Also good to ask in the beginning of the session since it give direction.
  • What can I do on my end either now or after our session to help you reach your goals? – Good to ask towards the end of the session. Some clients end up asking for email support or text message motivation. Usually, it ends up being some form of accountability.

3 – Spruce Up Your Handouts/Goal Setting Sheets
If you don’t have a goal setting sheet, now is the time to make one. I created a half-sheet of paper that lists my contact info, follow-up appointment date/time, product recommendations, goals, actions, and any nutrition prescription information (i.e. fiber, carbs). For each goal I set with a client, we determine their daily actions that help them reach their goal. Doing this helps them work through barriers during the session since we can actively brainstorm solutions. I find that a goal  sheet creates more inter-activeness during the session and heightens the likelihood that the client will succeed. I find a lot of clients like physically getting something from the appointment, and the goal sheet satisfies that.

Leave a comment and let me know how you are sprucing up your counseling sessions!

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7 Ways to Take Your Business to the Next Level

Welcome back to MyRDJourney! Have you been feeling lately that you need to take your business to the next level? Maybe, do something that will get you out of the business slump I talked about in my last blog?

The time will come in your business when you need to step it up. You will know when that time comes. I started my practice in 2014 and every year, I felt like I took it up a notch. I started accepting insurance in 2015. I re-launched my website in 2016. I built new partnerships and ended poor ones in 2017.

I describe it as an “itch” you need to scratch. A time when things feel too repetitive and you crave more. A time when clients might be even asking for more. This time came for me a few months ago when I decided to launch a free, beta, weight management support group. I knew my clients were looking for more support between appointments; however, they couldn’t all physically make it to a location every week. Cue the virtual class!

If you are scratching your head at where to start in stepping things up, read on for my “7 Ways to Take Your Business to the Next Level.”

1 – Assess + Set Goals
Think about your business now and ask yourself these questions: What is working well? What is not working well? What do my clients want? What do I know my clients need? What part of my business really excites me?

In assessing my business, I realized I was inefficient in how I was scheduling and charting clients (cue the EMR platform). I also knew I wanted to have more of a “virtual” income, yet I wasn’t doing much about it (cue the virtual weight management support group).

2 – Find Your Niche (If You Haven’t Already)
If you don’t know what your niche is or who your ideal client is, ask yourself these questions: What are your passionate about? What do others say is a skill of yours? What is your vision? What are you good at? Finding your niche will help you create more (and better) content and will fuel your drive to do more in your business.

Identifying my niche was really hard for me since I felt like I had a lot of ways I wanted to go with my practice. I ended up narrowing down my ideal client to working adults who are struggling to eat healthy with a busy work-personal life. My ideal client is someone who has been on multiple diets in the past and is ready to make a lifestyle change and end the cycle of dieting. I am still fine-tuning my niche; however, this was a great starting point for me.

3 – Brand Yourself/Business
Something that is often skipped/overlooked when setting up a practice is the branding aspect. Do you have a website? Does all of your copy and content speak to YOUR business brand? What do you want your client to feel when they read your content or visit your website?

I knew I was at the point in my business where I needed a logo. I needed that branding, especially if I was going to create a stronger online presence. I also knew I needed to re-do my website since it was bleak and hard to navigate. If you are feeling stuck, reach out to you current clients or someone you work with professionally to get their input. From there, you can determine your next steps in branding.

4 – Enrich Your Offerings
What can you do to enrich what you offer your clients? What more are they looking for? What do they need to reach their goals?

In enriching my business/services, I added monthly coaching, meal plan templates (for use by RDs and clients) and more lessons to my TPT store. All of these add-ons were in line with my business goals of going more virtual. I also added in new client folders with recipes and handouts, which helped to enrich my clients’ face-to-face experience with me.

5 – Ramp Up Your Online Presence
I already mentioned refreshing your website if needed; however, think now about your overall online presence. What social media platforms do you use? What social media platforms do your clients use? How consistent are you with posting content? Can you team up with another health professional to do a guest blog/video?

I had been blogging and posting on social media consistently; however, I really wanted to expand into video content. I dabbled in YouTube in the past; however, video editing is not my cup of tea. A few months ago, I started doing Facebook Live videos and they became a hit with my clients. I love doing them and my clients refer to them quite frequently now!

6 – Invest in Yourself
I tell my clients all of the time to invest in themselves and their health. This could mean a financial investment (i.e. gym membership or more healthful foods) or even just time (i.e. going to the gym or cooking more). This point translates really well into business.

I invested in myself this year by attending the Today’s Dietitian conference (i.e. knowledge + business connections) and by purchasing sports nutrition materials to expand my knowledge in this area. I’m looking to study and get my PT certification by the end of the year. This is something I am passionate about for myself and know will help me better help my clients. What aspect of your business-self can you invest in?

7 – Take Care of Yourself
In taking your business to the next level, don’t forget to take care of yourself. The last thing you want is to get started only to burn out in a month.  Don’t let your personal life go or things that you enjoy doing. For me, I schedule in my gym time during the day to take a mental break and I knit at night to relax. How will you take care of yourself?

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Leave a comment below and let me know how you plan to take your business to the next level!


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Working Through Business Slumps

Welcome back to MyRDJourney! If you read my last blog on EMR platforms, you will know that I just switched from paper/doc charting to an EMR! Let me tell you, this alleviated a lot of stress, time, and back-and-forth between clients for appointments and initial paperwork. No matter what platform you end up with, I would highly suggest looking into this for your business.

With the holiday just last week, there has been a major slump in business, which I kind of expected after 4 years of tracking the ebb and flow. I do have a lot of great clients who stay the course throughout the Summer; however, most of my new clients come in September once vacation time is over. This ebb and flow can happen in any business and you will feel it even more as an entrepreneur versus working for a company since the income changes too.

Normally, I schedule days where I don’t see clients so that I can work on my business (i.e. product development, content creation, etc) or so I can have some R&R. I try to have a list of on going to-dos to refer to quickly versus trying to figure out what to do in the moment.

During the Summer, there could be more days of administrative work than client seeing depending on holidays and such. I hit a Monday 2 weeks ago where I had 2 cancellations, 1 reschedule, and 2 client no-shows. What was supposed to be a productive day of seeing clients followed by working on product development turned into a slump of all slumps. While I should have been happy with the extra 3 hours I had to “be productive,” I really ended up unmotivated and downright frustrated.

After wallowing in self-pity for a bit, I did the following mini-exercise which I felt like got me motivated to move forward with the day. I hope this exercise helps you when your feeling an unexpected business slump.

1 – Wallow if you must for no more than 5-minutes
You can do this internally or even vent to a friend about it. Journaling can help in this situation too. Just get all of that negativity out!

2 – Do something non-business related
This can help you to clear your head of negativity and a lack of “productiveness.” I like to either cook a meal for myself, knit, go to the gym, or even go for a walk.

3 – Create an action plan for a 15-minute task
Now, it is time to get the creative juices and productivity flowing. Fifteen minutes is short enough to be “doable” but long enough for you to make progress and have sense of accomplishment. Think about something you have been putting off for the day, week or even month. In my 15-minutes, I ended up making a lesson plan template. I want my lessons to look more professional and consistent when I upload them to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers.

4 – Think about your “why”
Why is it important you do x, y, or z? What will your current or potential clients gain from your efforts? My “why” was not just for income purposes. I wanted to create more credible nutrition lesson plans from RDs in the marketplace.

5. Do it
Plain and simple. I did what I said I would, felt good about it, and even worked for another hour on products because I was motivated and redirected to a positive portion of my business! If after 15-minutes, you aren’t ready to move forward, that is completely fine too. Know your limits for the day and revert back to #2 if needed!

I feel like this simple exercise really helped me when I had an unexpected “slump” in my day and felt particularly unmotivated. I also find it to be really helpful to schedule in co-working dates and meetings with other professionals (dietitians or business owners) at least 2-3 times per month. I always feel encouraged and excited about my business after a coffee date!

One last thing I want to leave you with is more so on a more personal note. If your feeling like nothing is working to get you motivated in your business or in general, NEVER be afraid to ask for help. This could be asking for help from a friend, family member, or even a professional. Sometimes you need a more in-depth emotional work-through and that is 100% okay. I’m always here if any of you reading this need a call, video conference or even want to meet up to chat through some business slumps!


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Why I Made the Switch to an EMR Platform

Welcome back to MyRDJourney! There are a lot of really great things happening this Summer in my practice. I updated my website (again), am finally finishing my first book, and am gearing up to launch a virtual support group! I’m looking into a lot of online platforms for selling subscriptions/courses and I will post a blog once I finally decide on what I want to use.

One other huge thing I finally did this week was to make the switch to an EMR platform for patient charting and appointment keeping. I had been holding off since I started my practice back in 2014. Initially, I used paper charts in a filing cabinet, but realized this was a terrible idea due to my lack of space. For the past 3 years, I have been using an encrypted flash drive that I locked in a filing cabinet. Every one of my clients had a folder where I stored their initial/follow-up notes (Docs) and initial forms (PDFs). This saved me a lot of money initially, especially when I didn’t have a lot of clients.

Why I Switched
I’ve been thinking a lot lately how my “time is money” and trying to cut down or streamline the things that cause me to be less productive. One of those time sinks was how I was scheduling appointments and charting. I would normally email my clients open appointments, have them schedule through me, and then I would send the reminder email. I really wanted to have the ability to do more online bookings and integrate the calendar so reminders were automated. As for charting, I kept my flash drives at home, so I would have to be at home to type up client notes. I also encrypted my USBs with my Mac so I couldn’t use another operating system to open the files. There were also times when I needed to access a client’s information and I didn’t have a number on hand (in the case of a no-show) since I didn’t carry around the USBs. Lastly, I felt like moving to an EMR platform would be more secure and professional.

My Research Process
I’ll be honest; it took me forever to find a platform that I liked. I had tested out a few a couple of months ago; however, I didn’t really find one that suited my needs. I was also too focused on price when I first started looking, which wasn’t the best idea. I mean, I would spend almost an hour or two charting plus 1-2 hours scheduling appointments. If you think about your time as “money” I was losing money by wasting so much time on the admin side of things. So, my price point became more flexible once I thought about the time I would be saving.

What I Wanted
I would highly suggest doing the free trials and actually using the platforms with clients. Just looking around at the platform wasn’t enough to let me get a feel for how it would work with my practice. As you go through some of the free trials, take notes on what you liked and didn’t like to be able to compare platforms. I am already billing insurance with Navinet, which is free, and on specific insurances’ websites, so I knew that was not a feature I was heavily focused on. I also didn’t need multiple logins since I am the only RD in my practice that would be charting.

There were a few key features that I was looking for in an EMR platform. I wanted to be able to:
-Upload past notes
-Schedule client appointments in a calendar myself and to have clients to be able to do the same
-Edit templates for client forms
-Upload my own forms for clients to sign
-Access via an app
-Message clients via portal
-Have the ability to do secure video conferencing

In the end, I ended up with Simple Practice. This platform had the key features I wanted for a decent price. All-in-all I am happy I switched to an EMR platform. Even though it was time consuming at first to upload client files, I am much more efficient at scheduling and charting. I also find that I keep more detailed notes, especially for points of contact between appointments.

If you have any questions about EMR platforms, feel free to post a comment below!

Check out my previous blog for tips to running a weight management support group.

If you are interested in trying out Simple Practice, they have a free 30-day trial (where you don’t have to enter in credit card information). If you wanted to, you can use this link. If you end up deciding to go with them, we’ll both get a $50 credit towards our next subscription renewal. This post was not sponsored or influenced in any way by Simple Practice.

 


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Learning to Relax in Your Business

I am finally getting back into the swing of the week after being on vacation. My boyfriend and I scheduled a last minute (i.e. 3 weeks ago) trip to Nassau, Bahamas for my birthday, which was amazing! I would highly recommend Nassau for first time travelers or any travelers for that matter.

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Before going away, I was anxious about “leaving” my business and teaching positions for 6 days (I teach online and face-to-face at a local community college). Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to go away; however, this would be the first time that I was this busy AND going somewhere with no cell service and an unreliable WiFi connection.

The first couple of days, I was still able to get on my email and check-in with my classes. After about the 3rd day, the WiFi tapped out. It was honestly a blessing in disguise for me. It made me focus more on relaxing versus trying to stay on top of everything. Instead of checking email on the beach, I was reading a leisure book. Instead of grading papers in the morning, I was writing or doing a crossword on our balcony. I could really just relax and de-stress since there was nothing I could do about the cell service and WiFi. I actually felt like I had a break and was on vacation, which is how things should be!

After coming back from vacation, I had a few days of catching up on emails and calls; however, everything was perfectly fine. There were no major issues and the small issues that did come up were resolved quickly in an email or call. I did all of that worrying in the beginning for absolutely nothing. What was even better was that I felt super recharged coming back. I was excited to get back into my business and teaching. I had some new ideas for my business and also mental clarity about issues I was getting hung up on.

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My goal for the next couple of months, especially with the holidays coming up is to really just take that time to relax and step away from my business/teaching. This means turning my phone off at the gym (and not answering emails on the treadmill). This means putting my phone on silent while doing other things I enjoy like cooking or reading so I am not tempted to answer. This means not having my phone out at the dinner table so I don’t break conversations for insignificant emails. This also means setting and sticking to the boundaries I set between my business and personal life.

All in all, I had a wonderful vacation and I look forward to taking some more time for myself, without giving in to temptations to multitask with my business. I know that this will improve my motivation and also recharge my batteries when I am feeling burnt out. I challenge you to take the time to step away from your business (or any job) for a few moments, hours, or weeks for just yourself!

 


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Business Lessons Learned – Letting Go

This past month, I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do long-term with my business. One major thing I learned is that it is okay to just let go. Let go of aspects of your business that are not working. Let go of hangups you have on moving forward. Let go of bad business connections.

I used to think of letting things go as a sort of moral failure; that I just wasn’t working hard enough at whatever it was to make it succeed. The fact is that I have changed since I started my business and I can guarantee many of you reading this have done the same at some point in your career. Maybe the change was gradual and you didn’t even notice it right away or maybe it was sudden and out of necessity. I needed the change in my business to become a better and more well-rounded professional. Letting go does not mean you didn’t put in the time and effort for success. It is not to be seen as a “failure,” but a learning experience, opportunity for growth, or chance to try something new.

I challenge you to look at your business with an outside perspective. What is eating at your time and not producing results? What connections are more damaging to your business and/or productivity than they are beneficial? What can you you let go of for the opportunity to grow?

Earlier this week, I sat down at my business journal and just brain dumped what I was thinking. I wrote down things I wish I had known (and did now), tips for myself, frustrations, “aha” moments, just everything. I filled almost 4 pages with random thoughts and it was actually quite invigorating. Going back a few days after writing, I realized there were some gems in my string of random thoughts. If you have a rough day (or month) or even a great one, take a few moments to just write out your thoughts on paper. No judgement. No worries about grammar. Just write and see what realizations you come to have about yourself and your business. This could help you in taking the next step in your business or changing the way you run things.

Below are just a few of the many business tips and realizations I brain dumped that day.
-I think I would like (and need) a secretary to help with fielding calls and scheduling appointments. (This made me look into online scheduling software).
-I like guiding and teaching, which make me want to search out more opportunities to do presentations and also develop more programs to coach or work with other Dietitians.
-Some days, I am just completely unmotivated and that is okay. Every day won’t be super productive. Just as long as those unmotivated days don’t become an issue for business.
-Mid-day gym sessions really boost my productivity and momentum.
-A support system can really make or break you. Just having that 1 person makes a world of difference.
-Some days you just work late.
-I wonder how other people see me and my business. I wonder how I could gauge this.
-I need to DO more than THINK. I spend too much time planning and overthinking that this sometimes leads to inaction.
-Relating to your clients is key. Trust begins here and they feel safer opening up.

Have you ever just brain-dumped in a journal? What “aha” moments did you have? Leave a comment and let me know!


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Top 10 Skills for Dietitian Entrepreneurs

Have you debated going the entrepreneurial route? Thinking about starting a private practice as a Dietitian? You may be wondering if you have what it takes to succeed. After being in business for 3 years now, I have learned a lot about my skills and what I need to hone in on to have my practice thrive.

Below, I outline 10 different skills/traits that are crucial to your success, whether it be in private practice or in another business venture. While you may not feel that you are strong in all of these areas, the more you push yourself and your comfort level, the more enhanced these skills will become.

#1 – Passion 
Whether you will enter the realm of entrepreneur as a Dietitian or any other professional, you need to be passionate about what you do. This passion will drive your business and fuel your motivation through tough times.  Your passion will resonate with clients and show them that you truly care about what you do.

#2 – Perseverance
Throughout business, you will have many ups and downs with both income and overall success. Contracts may fall through, clients may drop out, your business may change, etc. Perseverance is key to keeping yourself from throwing your hands in the air and walking away. All of your hard work will pay off!

#3 – Self-Confidence 
While you may not feel confident in every aspect of running a business, be confident in your niche, your talent, what you bring to the table. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly selling yourself and your products/services. If you don’t believe in yourself and have confidence in your abilities, why should prospective clients or companies?

#4 – Self-Motivation
As an entrepreneur, you are the boss. You don’t have a manager telling you what to do at all hours of the day. You are not walking into an office where there is a list of duties or set of expectations for your role. YOU create that role. YOU create those expectations. Can you motivate yourself when no one is standing over your shoulder? If you are struggling with how to motivate yourself, take some time to figure out what drives you to succeed. Is it making more money? Having more freedom? As an entrepreneur, I can say from experience that you won’t necessarily feel motivated, or confident for that matter, every single day. You should be able to motivate yourself and be a self-starter at least 90-95% of the time.

#5 – Strong Work Ethic 
Having a strong work ethic can be described in a number of different ways. I like to think of quality, integrity, and responsibility as attributes that someone can exhibit within their “strong work ethic.” Your quality of work and service will speak for itself and drive clients to your door (I have seen this first hand without the use of paid marketing).

#6 – Ability to Multitask 
Being the boss means that you may wear many hats (especially if you work alone), but, it can also mean you oversee many departments and thus need to be aware of the inner-workings of each. I feel that there is a fine line between what is effective and what is overwhelming and hinders production. When I think of multitasking, I think of the various things I need to accomplish on a daily basis: posting to social media, seeing clients, fielding calls, answering emails, writing content or lessons, etc. Some of these things may happen simultaneously. The key is not stretching yourself too thin, but managing these tasks efficiently.

#7 – Effective Time Management
Number 6-8 all go hand-in-hand. With having multiple items on your plate each day, you need to learn how to effectively manage the time you have. Know when your best hours are to work on administrative tasks. Know when you tend to see and schedule clients. Remember to leave some time for yourself daily (if not weekly) to recharge your batteries. Running on empty will hinder your productivity and ultimately ruin plans for time management. Before you know it, you are sucked into 3-hours of Netflix and haven’t accomplished a thing for your business.

#8 – Organization
I would say the number one skill to have as an entrepreneur is a high level of organization. This is especially important in the beginning stages of your business planning. If you are a Dietitian and plan to become an insurance provider, you will need to keep track of applications, billing codes, claims, etc. Being organized means that you manage your time well, finish tasks by their deadline, and are on top of scheduling. One of the key things I have learned with keeping myself organized is to prioritize my day-to-day tasks and anticipate when I will accomplish the non-priorities. I also found having systems in place for my administrative tasks is helpful. I have a system for how I schedule clients, how I store files, how I chart, etc.

#9 – Flexibility 
You may have your day or even week planned to a perfect T and then, disaster hits. Two clients need to reschedule, you get 2 new calls of potential clients, your seminar outline is taking longer to write than you thought, etc. Within any role, as an entrepreneur or an employee, you need to be flexible. Things will happen that will throw your day off. Take a minute to regroup and then prioritize what is ahead of you. Being flexible means using many of the other skills mentioned before: time management, organization, strong work ethic, etc. Every day will not go as planned and that is okay!

#10 – Continuous Learner
One final skill I want to touch on is being the continuous learner, which can be related to the field of nutrition or business. Never stop challenging yourself or pushing your boundaries. Continue to learn, enhance your skills, and become a polished professional.

After reading through this post, what can you identify as your strengths and weaknesses? As I mentioned earlier, you may not feel strong in all of these areas of your business. If you do feel one or two areas need improvement, can you take an online course to enhance those skills? Or, could you take on a partner or an employee that would fulfill these tasks? As an entrepreneur, you may not be able to handle everything in your business, especially as it begins to grow. Identify what your are priorities and where you can delegate or outsource other tasks.

Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

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For more information on preparing yourself for private practice, click the LINK.

For tips on starting a private practice, click the LINK.