5 tips for your first year in practice from a Naturopath who jumped in the deep end

Written by Alexandra McPhee | 16 January, 2020

The idea of your first year in clinical practice can spark many different emotions – excitement, nerves, dread, curiosity and relief. Or maybe you are pushing the thought to the back of your mind until the last week of your last semester!

It has been a year since I swanned out of my final exam, full to the brim of knowledge and, of course, a little burnt out from the colossal workload that a Bachelor degree entails. Early on in my studies I knew that I wanted to go into clinical practice and run my own business. I wanted to do things my way and reap the rewards of what I assumed would be a lot of hard work!

Here are my top five pieces of advice for new graduates, or even those of you with a few semesters left ahead of you.

You really don’t need much to start out

You know when you write that business plan in ‘Establish and Manage a Practice’? I quickly realised that I would need a small fortune to fund my big herby dream clinic. I had some savings, but not enough to make my dream board a reality. However, when push came to shove and I had a client follow me out of student clinic and into the real world, I was able to make it work with very little capital. I had my brain, my notes from clinic, my clinical exam equipment, an account with an online prescription service, my diary for bookings and a starter kit from a herb supplier. I sorted out my insurance, association membership and printed some (not too expensive) business cards. I was up and running for under $1,500. I offered home visits for acquaintances and took referrals from those I trusted. Once I had a couple of regular clients, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to hire a clinic room – which conveniently was already decorated in my dream aesthetic!

You know WAY more than you realise

It’s easy to start taking clients and become overwhelmed by all you haven’t learnt (yet). Remember that your knowledge base is already far more extensive than that of your average client. You DO know enough to help them. Even if you only recommend one remedy or one piece of diet/lifestyle advice while you go away and research your butt off, you have already helped them. With this in mind, don’t feel like you have to go and complete four other courses and a certificate or two in order to be qualified enough. Sure, further education is great, but as a Naturopathic graduate you are already highly educated and qualified to help people. You are enough. Now get started!

Don’t take personal responsibility for your client’s health journey

Yes, you have a responsibility to provide a duty of care, heed cautions and contraindications and prescribe safely. One thing that I got caught up in, was the belief that if a client didn’t get the desired result, I had failed. Their lack of success was deemed to be a huge personal failure on my part. It felt awful and I was anxious and doubtful of my ability. When I broke it down into parts, I realised that the client hadn’t actually been very compliant with my recommendations. So of course treatment wasn’t as successful as it could have been! Once I realised this, I had to set some boundaries. I promised myself that I would explain treatment thoroughly, provide information and guidance and that’s it. If I provided rationale for my recommendations and offered suitable alternatives and the client still didn’t comply, I have done all I can. The rest is up to them. Sometimes clients need to hear this from you! In summary, no absorbing energetic juju from clients.

Tell people what you do!

Nobody likes small talk. Especially when you ask someone what they do for work and they give you a generic ‘I’m an accountant’ response. Boring. The same goes for Naturopathy! Instead of the bare minimum three word answer, give a condensed version of your introductory naturopathic spiel. Mine goes: ‘I help women with skin issues like acne by treating the causes with herbs and nutrition – I’m a Naturopath’. Invariably, this sparks interest and something like ‘Oh! My sister/niece/friend/dog walker needs to come and see you!’. Then if I’m feeling really game I offer them my business card. You literally never know where your next client will come from, and word of mouth is the best FREE marketing strategy. Most people trust their sister/aunt/friend/dog walking clients. Most people also aren’t sure what a Naturopath actually is, so tell them instead of waiting for them to ask.

Keep going

Once you get through the first inevitable emotional melt down, you’ll have a huge breakthrough. I promise. Five months into my practice I was seriously doubting my drive and ability to make this work. I was an anxious mess about seeing clients and felt clueless about all the business and money stuff. But I also knew that after five years of study, I couldn’t just give up after five months! Surround yourself with cheerleaders. Join Facebook groups for natural health practitioners. Stay in touch with your graduating class. Don’t listen to the people that tell you ‘Maybe it would be best if you got a full time job with steady money for a while’ (unless you agree that it’s a great idea). Give yourself a chance and ask for help when you need it. If owning your own practice is your dream, it will pay off, I promise.

Interested in studying Naturopathy? Visit our course page for more information.


Alexandra McPhee

Alexandra (Lexie) McPhee is an Endeavour College of Natural Health Alumni and qualified, practising Naturopath. Her special interests include writing, communication with the natural world, the history of medicinal plant use and creating her own herbal oils and salves. 

Read more by Alexandra McPhee

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