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What is it like running your own private practice as a registered dietitian?

I am finishing my BA in Nutrition and wondering if private practice is what I’d like to pursue. What does the every day work life balance look like when running your own health coaching business. Any regrets or tips to getting started?

Thank you comment icon All fields of work for a nutritionist have their challenges. The only way to discover your field of work and calling is by daring yourself. Dare to create a portfolio of services with your superpowers and talk to your friends, family, and acquaintances. I'm sure you have a lot to give to your patients. Do everything with love, discipline, organization, updating, and persuasion. These are the keys to start and see what happens. Everything is a part of learning. Angie Torres

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Subject: Career question for you

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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Yadira !

Even though I am not a Health Coach or nutritionist, I would like to present some advice and thoughts for you.

If you are planning to open a private practice, I advise that will be the best path choice. There may be some options or a mixture of ways that you can structure your practice that will lend itself to great life/work balance for you.

If you're not sure how to start, you can do some reading about the details of opening your own practice. Since there is a lot of information about how to do this, I have left a link for you below to a website that can explain it and you can print out the information for future reference. I have also left a link to information about online coaching as well, because that is an option, too ! Now, there are many ways you can offer your services: One on One private, group presentations for businesses/agencies, remote online, destination, home visits, in a rented office space. I would advise being flexible and offering all of the possible ways such as these. You can assign your fee for each based on your discretion. To make the most out of your clientele base, be a coach that is able to serve all populations, leaving no prospective client out. This will be great for your community and yourself. Be someone who can assist with children, adults, seniors, disabilities and many dietetic issues.

One thing I want to mention is that you should decide if you want to go standard practice or holistic. It may be in your favor to be able to do both. I say this because everything you learn in college will be very helpful and required in application in your work. Holistic nutrition will require additional trainings or courses which I highly advise. The more people that you can accommodate for your practice is going to be better in every way. You don't have to cram more studies in right away, but do consider that there are different levels of nutrition theory and support and different perspectives, both based on viable studies but some on government support, and some of your clients may expect you to meet them where they're at. And it will all serve for better business. Unfortunately, the two do conflict with different belief systems as well as where the money comes from for the studies. If you decide to offer both holistic as well as standard commercial nutrition, you can search for holistic nutrition online and become certified in it if that is what you'd like. My motto is: Cover all ground !

I advise opening your own practice at some point, when you are ready, whether it's after graduation and certification or in a few years afterward. If you do wait to do it, you'll have to apply for jobs with a company and work the hours they need you to work and learn what the life/work balance is. You can find Health Coach jobs on any of the employment websites online.

I hope that this was helpful, some food for thought (excuse the pun) and I wish you all the best on a most important, exciting and interesting career !

Michelle recommends the following next steps:

STARTING YOUR OWN HEALTH COACHING PRACTICE https://howtostartanllc.com/business-ideas/health-coaching
START AN ON LINE HEALTH COACHING BUSINESS https://nudgecoach.com/blog/6-steps-to-launch-a-profitable-lifestyle-program-in-your-practice
HEALTH COACH DIRECTORY TO LIST YOURSELF IN https://www.noomii.com/health-and-fitness-coaches
HEALTH COACH DIRECTORY TO LIST YOURSELF IN https://directory.functionalmedicinecoaching.org/
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Sam’s Answer

Private practice is a great option for someone who really values flexibility in their schedule. It takes a LOT of work to establish a business, not to mention getting enough consistent clients to pay bills, etc. If you're brand new to the career, I would recommend a couple years (at least) working as an outpatient dietitian with a company first. It's important to get a "lay of the land" as far as what patients/clients expect, and how you prefer to structure your sessions, write your notes, and find your style. It's important to understand yourself really well before you sell yourself as a brand, and that can only come with experience first. Maybe as a compromise, you can work part-time for a company (telehealth or in person) and do your business part time until you're confident you can keep up the business by itself. Finally, if you're looking to work as a health coach instead of becoming a dietitian, you will have a lot more credibility if you become a board-certified health and wellness coach. There are a lot of jobs out there now for Health Coaches that do very similar work as outpatient dietitians - I'm certified as both and my job title is Health Coach, and my day to day work is very similar!

Sam recommends the following next steps:

List of approved Health Coach training programs: https://nbhwc.org/find-an-approved-training-program/#!directory/ord=rnd
The Pros and Cons of Being a Private Practice Dietitian: https://reimbursementdietitian.com/resources-for-dietitians/business-basics/the-pros-and-cons-of-being-a-private-practice-dietitian/
How To Start: https://www.ericajulson.com/how-to-start-a-nutrition-private-practice/
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Danielle’s Answer

I am an RD of almost 15 years. Your first steps need to be focused on becoming a registered dietitian. You must be enrolled in an accredited program that allows you to finish with a Masters degree in dietetics (not nutrition!). Once you finish an accredited program in dietetics, you can apply to dietetic internships. Once you complete an internship, you can sit for your board exam to obtain your RD credential. All advice I give to new RDs is to work as a clinical RD in the hospital setting for a minimum of 2 years. It will get you excellent experience on how to manage patients as practice RD and get you some experience on how the healthcare system works. As an RD, you will want to get reimbursed from insurance companies, so make friends with the nurse case managers at the hospital! There is so much you don’t know as a new RD and starting to work isolated on your own will not set you up for success. There is too much to learn from other RDs and other members of the healthcare team ( Speech therapist, physicians and all of the many specialists , pharmacist, social workers, occupational therapist, respiratory therapy, physical therapist, nurses etc!).
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Simone’s Answer

Hello! Running a private practice as a nutritionist can be challenging when we are not prepared to be an active listener. People who come to us have physical and mainly emotional pains. When it's physical, it's kind easier to help them. But if the physical pain is connected to their emotions then we need to have a little more patience, empathy and I'd say kindness.
We also have the financial challenge but if you are an organized person you will be able to manage that easily.
And keep studying! There's always something new related to Nutrition. New nutraceuticals that may help the patients, new strategies about getting more patients for your practice.
Just go for it if your heart says so!
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Marina’s Answer

Embarking on the journey to become a registered dietitian involves accomplishing a master's degree and a dietetic internship via an accredited program. Some internships provide opportunities to collaborate with and learn from a private practice dietitian, offering you a glimpse into the profession. You'll also discover other fields where you can apply your skills as a registered dietitian.

As a private practice dietitian, you have the autonomy to design your practice in a way that promotes work-life balance. However, this might require investing substantial time in self-promotion to attract clients. Your work-life balance could be influenced by your living expenses and your earning potential. Many of my dietitian friends who run private practices initially worked part-time in hospitals to earn a steady income and gain experience, especially considering the high cost of living in places like California.

The current job market offers numerous dietitian roles where you can provide remote telehealth counseling within an established organization. Such a job could potentially offer a better work-life balance compared to hospital work. It's an excellent way to accumulate experience and maintain an income stream before you're ready to venture out independently.

Once you've obtained your credentials, some useful tips for launching a private practice include creating a social media account to share nutrition information and attract potential clients. Additionally, seek opportunities to speak about nutrition or conduct cooking demonstrations at local events.
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James Constantine’s Answer

Dear Yadira,

I've been a certified dietitian-nutritionist in Australia since 1988. The following year, I started my private practice in Brisbane, Queensland, where I served for three years. My qualifications include a postgraduate diploma in nutrition and dietetics from the Queensland Institute of Technology. From 1988 to 1999, I also held three different positions as a dietitian within state health departments.

To promote my services to the community, I made frequent appearances in the media and on radio talk shows during my time in private practice.

For over a decade, I've been deeply involved in the nutrition education of Australia's Aboriginal People. By 1994, I had already amassed over 20 years of experience in computer programming. This expertise allowed me to start developing nutrition education software. For the past 30 years, I've been the proud author of the Diet Wizard, a program that utilizes the SR28 food database from the USDA, which I'm authorized to use.

Please be aware that working in remote-rural areas can be demanding, so it's important to have a strategy in place to prevent burnout.

May God bless you!
James Constantine.
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