Since embarking on my career as an independent dietitian 16 months ago, it has been a slow and frustrating journey. Seeing my clients, 5am starts, 11pm finishes, with looking after the three children and a household in between. A logistical ‘challenge/nightmare’!
“How hard can it be to fill a one morning clinic each week”? Coming from the NHS, I thought this would be a cinch, where waiting lists to see the team of hospital dietitians are months long. Out in the real world of freelancing, it is a very different story.
It takes a long time to build a dietetic business. It isn’t like physiotherapy, for example, where clients return for numerous appointments. I gauge how well I am doing by clients not having to return to see me. I know I won’t make my millions this way, but when you love what you do and see the results of your work, life is pretty good.
It is a wonderful thing to see the difference in people’s lives. In the last week, a lovely lady who I saw a month ago, for digestive issues that her GP was unable to help her with (sadly, most doctors have zero training in nutrition but plenty of training in issuing prescriptions) stopped me while shopping in Kingston to give me a kiss and a hug. I’m not comfortable with blowing my own trumpet, but I want to let people know that it’s not all doom and gloom when the medics say “sorry, we can only treat you with drugs, and if the drugs don’t work, there is nothing more we can do”. Also this week, an email from a mum of an 8 year old boy with worrying behavioural issues and not a solid poo in his life. Again, unfortunately for years his GP was unable to help:
“I can’t believe what a difference I have seen in a such a short space of time! His appetite has improved greatly and he does seem to be much calmer! I have also noticed a change in his poo………….. I know we have a long way to go but I just wanted to say thank you as I have seen an improvement already! He is having school meals so that is a bit out of my control but whereas he never used to touch it he is definately trying foods now.”
So slowly, slowly, I have gone from one client a month, to 4-5 a week. There have been times when I was on the verge of giving up and getting a ‘proper’ job, but it is my patients/clients that inspire me to persist, work hard and change things for them for the better.
It’s a wonderful thing to love what you do, and now I’m able to pass on this passion to the next generation. Two weeks ago I started a new part time lecturing post at St Mary’s University, teaching Clinical and Sports Nutrition to undergraduates and Masters students. Crikey! A massive thank you to my parents who have eased the childcare logistics while I settle in. My first lecture is next Friday. Yikes! But I’m not ditching my clinic clients. No way. That work is too important to let it go.