I received a request to put together a “day in the life” post that takes you through the “wild” life of a private practice dietitian.
I have to admit it was a pretty cool request, props to Brooke Heath ( AKA Donuts & Barbells) for putting the request in and giving me the inspiration.
Where Do I Begin?
To provide context, I work ~5.5 days a week in addition to my social media, blogging & freelance writing endeavours.
Three of those days are spent operating my private practice and the other 2.5 are spent working at two other clinics.
It’s a wonderful but necessary balance. Even if I’ve had a very busy summer, a private practice dietitian will certainly benefit from supplemental income sources.
How many clients do I see?
I’m sure this is a big question that most of you are interested in.
After an incredible amount of ground work and self-promotion I am at the point where I have quite a regular flow of both new clients and follow ups.
Right now I will see anywhere between 3-6 clients. If I see 5-6 people, it is a VERY good day, whereas 3-4 is more regular and less than 2 at this point is a bad day.
With that being said, no-shows do also occur, maybe at the rate of 1 in 20 appointments.
When you are in private practice in what is still an “unconventional” route like dietetics, and you have to fight tooth and nail to build your practice, every client no-show hurts.
What type of clients do I see?
By far and away my biggest demographic of people come to see me to learn how to eat healthy and better manage their weight.
I see as many men as I do women and I’d say middle-aged is a fair classification of my most common client.
I’ve also been seeing an increasing number of young males who are looking for advice to put on weight ( muscle) lately as well as young mothers who are fascinated in veganism/vegetarianism.
I firmly believe that we need more dietitians offering counseling outside of the healthcare system.
Obviously, whether or not these services will be utilized and profitable will depend on the extent to which potential clients are covered by insurance benefits.
In my experience, when it comes to insurance, it does appear that more people have coverage than they think.
I often have clients who come in and say “ I had no idea that I had coverage for a dietitian until I take a closer look”
What that tells me is that obviously more people have coverage than they think, but I mean the whole topic of dietitian coverage for Canadian workers is a whole other story.
I’ve also had clients in high positions in large companies who, after working with me, vowed to advocate for improved insurance coverage for their employees.
A good impression can go a very long way, to say the least.
I just don’t think enough people appreciate or understand the importance and value of the time spent with a dietitian and it is up to us to change that.
Personally it is quite frustrating that we wait until most of our countrymen and women have a medical indication before they are able to access a dietitian through Ontario healthcare.
It is my wish to help transform the space our profession finds itself in and play a role in creating a new reality where more and more people should be given an opportunity to see a dietitian, for at least an initial visit, on their own volition.
I hope to play a part in the movement that will urge more and more dietitians to embrace the challenge of changing the system and showing the value that dietitians in unconventional roles have.
I do believe our profession deserves more respect and recognition, but no one is going to hand it to us.
So… let’s talk about last Tuesday.
I actually failed to mention that I have a relationship with a rehab office that will randomly call me to come in to do the odd assessment.
When you are in private practice you don’t turn down clients so I started my day at that clinic before heading ( AKA rushing) down to my office area to have a lunch and learn with a local family doctors office ( to raise awareness of what I do and who I help in the hopes a few referrals down the line).
Once I finished that presentation, I speed walk back to my office to see two new clients back to back.
That takes me to around 3pm when I can finally have breakfast ( which I generally don’t eat at home because I enjoy eating liberally at night and therefore I am not always hungry first thing in the morning).
Since we are talking about my life you might as well know that my breakfast during the work week ( aka 6 days a week) usually includes multiple pieces fruit ( usually bananas) and a “healthy fat” ( either a liberal amount of nuts or a few small avocados).
As far as seeing the clients goes, it isn’t that much different than the way any other dietitian operates, including charting afterwards.
The first question I always ask clients is some iteration of ” so, tell me why you’re here today!” And ” tell me everything you want to address”.. that way they know right off the bat I am here to serve their agenda not to put them on mine. Remember, all of my clients ( minus those forced by their moms or wives) come to see my completely on their own free will and are very much a pleasure to work with.
Down Time ( or in between clients)
Starbucks! Kidding.. .. not kidding though I do go way too often especially on multiple client days where I perceive that I have more expendable income than I actually do.
In all seriousness, when you work for yourself there is no downtime at the office or quite frankly at home either.
If I’m not eating cleaning or exercising (and sometimes even when I am doing those things) I am probably doing one of the following:
- Instagram “Work” – this usually involves liking my followers pictures. As I become increasingly busy with income generating activities in real life my Instagram content has suffered but I try my best to respect the platform and I’d be foolish not to because of all the opportunities it has provided me.
- Writing – I do an incredible amount of paid and unpaid writing on a monthly basis. I am paid to write about 5-6 articles a month and I probably write another additional 3-4 for my site ( although this number has suffered lately)
- Misc – Emailing old clients for follow ups, special projects, freelance opportunity searching… yes even though I have a ton on the go I am always intrigued if any cool opportunities pop up, especially freelance gigs.
These activities will generally consume my evening activities as well.
One of the big joys of working for yourself and doing what you love is that you truly look forward to each day, but it also means you don’t really ever shut off.
You pretty much bring work with you everywhere, but you don’t mind because you love what you do.
I also work with a chiropractor of a similar age and we will spend time sometimes plotting promotional activities as we are like minded when it comes to doing everything we can to become fixtures in our catchment area.
Thinking Of Private Practice?
I will close by sharing my “5 Rules Of Private Practice”
- Think Years – Not Months: I strongly believe in the potential of private practice dietetics but it’s just not on the level of recognition of other specialities like massage or chiropractic. Additionally, We face a greater deal of competition from unregistered professionals in our space. Hard work will pay off but you have to be realistic with your timelines.
- You will need another job: The simple reality is that, given the nature of the current healthcare space, you will not earn a sustainable income doing only private practice, especially for the first 12-18 months.
- You need to find the right space: Follow one simple rule, the best location for the best price. I ended up in my office because the clinic owner offered me a room for half the price of everyone else, and it turned out to be the best thing to happen to me.
- Get used to being “on” 24/7: Instagram has been invaluable to the growth of my practice and brand. The same can be said for my blog. These are things that require time above and beyond everything else I do on a daily basis.
- Treat every client like your last: Pretty much the golden rule of private practice, although of course dietitians should be doing this all the time, the reality is that when you have a client who has chose to see you specifically on their own free will,you need to properly respect and reward that faith.
I hope you guys enjoyed insights into the life of a private practice dietitian. Thanks for reading!
Until next time,
Andy De Santis RD MPH