Charlene here! Our newsletter this month is a little different.
You might not know that in addition to being the co-founder of Nutrition Masterclass with Julie, I run a group private practice focusing on pediatric nutrition. In the last few years, I’ve had a number of dietitians asking how I transitioned from a 9 – 5 job to being self-employed in pediatrics.
If this is of interest to you, keep reading! I’m going to share an abbreviated version of my story and then outline some key steps that may be helpful if you are hoping to follow a similar path.
The Newbie Years
22 years ago (I’m that old!), fresh out of my internship, I was hired by our local children’s hospital as a casual dietitian. This was my first stroke of luck. Over the years, I worked in many different areas including oncology, neurology, NICU, PICU, general medicine, eating disorders, GI clinic – you name it, I tried it. And with this, my skills and comfort level in pediatrics grew. I was fortunate to work with a large group of dietitians, many of whom had already been working in peds for 20+ years, giving me access to a goldmine in terms of mentorship.
Eventually, I was working four days per week at the hospital and took on an external position as a homecare dietitian. It was there that I had the privilege of working with complex newborns who were being discharged from hospital with feeding issues, many of whom were tube fed. To this day, if I didn’t need an income to survive, I would gladly volunteer my time to do this job. That’s how much I loved it.
Starting a Private Practice
Fast forward to 2007 – I move into a home with a main floor office, perfect for getting started in private practice. And I did just that – I started. No website. No social media. I put my name on a list of private practice dietitians and crossed my fingers. I saw clients a few evenings per week initially. And word-of-mouth worked its magic. My practice started growing.
Big Decisions to Make
Everything was status quo until 2010, when my first child was born and working out of my home with a baby became difficult. I found a family physician in my area who had office space to sublet and utilized that on an as-needed basis. The private practice growth continued and it was still primarily word-of-mouth.
Two more kids came along and I continued working my 9-5 job plus private practice a few evenings per week. However, it was quickly becoming apparent that this was not sustainable.
After much thought and preparation, I decided to take a short leave from my hospital position to focus on homecare and private practice. I gave myself an income goal and timeline to meet that goal, otherwise my plan was to let the private practice go.
Fast Forward to 2023
Needless to say, I met that income goal and more. I did continue to work at the hospital on a casual basis – it was hard for me to say goodbye to a place I loved! But over time, I was able to focus the majority of my time on my private practice and now, Nutrition Masterclass as well. Was it easy? Heck no. Was it worth the stress, hard work and uncertainty? Absolutely.
5 Key Steps to Getting Started in Pediatric Private Practice
Everyone’s journey is different and what worked for me might not work for you. I also recognize this is 2023 and not 2007, so things have changed. However, the basics are the same and hindsight is 20/20, right?
Don’t get bogged down on having the perfect website, social media or a branded handout for every client that walks through your door. More than anything, the families that come to see you just want your time and expertise.
Niche down, eventually
You don’t necessarily need to choose a niche immediately. It may take you some time to figure out who your ideal client is. Make sure you do identify the type of client you would refer elsewhere based on your expertise.
Take calculated risks
We all have different personal situations, different privileges and therefore, the amount of income-related risk we can manage will vary. It does not need to be all or nothing. You might start small and take small risks. You might start big and take big risks. Or you may be somewhere in the middle. You don’t need to quit your job to START your practice!
This is one of the most important aspects of private practice. Your clients tell their friends, family, acquaintances and healthcare providers about you. Finding referral sources is key early on and could be as simple as sending a brief report back to your client’s physician. Fancy pamphlets can be sent out down the road, should you choose. But in the end, people just want to know that they are sending their friends, family or patients to the right person.
When the time comes, you are looking for dietitians with complementary skill sets, not matching skill sets to your own. Pay attention to how they communicate with you during the application and interview process. Trust your gut.
Of course, continual learning is key for all dietitians – but especially important for those in private practice who don’t always have other RDs nearby to bounce questions and ideas off. If you have an interest in growing a private practice with a focus on infants, consider our Infant Nutrition Essentials course in the fall of 2024 for ongoing learning and support. Join the waitlist here:
|Join our Infant Nutrition Essentials Waitlist Here
What are we up to right now at Nutrition Masterclass:
On December 12th, our newest webinar on Vegan/Vegetarian Nutrition for Infants was presented by Paula Hallam, paediatric dietitian. We had almost 1000 people register for the live event – clearly a hot topic! Did you miss it? Check out the recording here:
|Access our Vegan/Vegetarian Nutrition for Infants Webinar Here
Charlene and Julie
P.S. Did you know we run a private Facebook group for dietitians interested in pediatric nutrition? It’s called “Pediatric Dietitians – Newbies to Masters” and it has almost 4000 members! Join our group by clicking HERE!
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