A letter to anxious students entering clinical practice

Written by Margo White | 17 March, 2022

clinic students preparing a nutrient compound

Being at the Endeavour student clinic is a once in a lifetime experience.

Although for many it can bring on deep anxiety and self doubt, it really is a time of growth and learning that you will never get again once you become a qualified practitioner.

In my years prior to being at the student clinic, I heard about the stress and pressure of being there. Everyone I spoke to said “I’ve cried in clinic many times, it’s like a right of passage”.

This left me feeling quite anxious and unsure of how I would possibly succeed in such an environment. While that sounds scary, the truth is it’s really an exciting time! Student clinic is a very important time in your studies, where you consolidate all the information that you have learnt over the years, and put it into practice with the safety and support of fantastic practitioners.

Clinic is where your career starts and where you can safely step into a practitioner role for the very first time.

When I graduated a year ago, I launched a mentoring program for Endeavour Naturopathic and Nutrition Students. I run small groups and one on one sessions with the aim of preparing students emotionally, mentally and practically for clinical subjects. I really wanted to get people excited and feeling hopeful for their clinic experience as this is something I felt I never had.

Below are some common topics that come up in my mentoring sessions.

Thoughts before entering clinic

  • ‘I feel like I don’t know enough’
  • ‘People will realise I am a fraud and I know nothing’
  • ‘What happens if a question is asked and I can’t answer it?’
  • ‘I don’t know what to expect’
  • ‘I am really anxious about going into clinic’
  • ‘I am worried I won't get clients’

Your thoughts and feelings are valid

Be reassured that these are all valid thoughts and feelings. Starting anything new is scary and it takes time to become familiar and comfortable. Please trust that the supervisors want you to succeed, as do the other students.

It’s okay if you don’t know everything, even when you are 10 or 20 years into practice there will still be more to learn. You will keep learning all of your life.

The biggest tip I can give you when you are asked a question and can’t answer it is to just be honest. Say that you are not sure and tell your client or supervisor that you will go away, research, and come back with the answer. This shows honesty and that you want to put in the effort and time to help your client. Supervisors love this!

Remember you are a student, you’re not expected to know everything. It’s also okay to make mistakes because this is how you will learn best.

Imposter Syndrome

I want to talk for a second about imposter syndrome because it always rears its ugly head in clinic. Imposter Syndrome is a normal human thought pattern for many, but why do we doubt ourselves and have such negative thoughts?

Often it's because we are conditioned as children by society, teachers, and our parents to believe certain things about ourselves that are not even remotely true. These ideas become thoughts that can manifest into our lives making us doubt our abilities and lower our self-esteem.

There is hope though. If we challenge those negative thoughts and practice self-care we can change ingrained negative self-talk, start to heal, and move forward with greater confidence. You have made it this far, that should be all the evidence you need to know that you can do this!

Next time Imposter Syndrome rears its ugly head try saying to yourself "Thank you imposter for teaching me I'm human. Thank you for allowing me to be present in my feelings. You can go away now because I’ve got this". Acknowledging your thoughts and feelings is the first step to changing negative thought patterns.

There is no room for comparison in clinic

Please don’t compare yourself or your work to other students. You can use what someone else has done to inspire you and give you ideas but don't allow it to make you feel bad about yourself. We are all on our own journey in life and we don’t need to do what others do, we need to do what is right for ourselves. Be confident that you are doing the best you can.

Look after yourself

When you are in clinic, it will be busy, make sure you take time out to look after yourself. I always recommend students have at least one day per week where they don’t do anything clinic-related and try to incorporate some self-care into their day.

I will leave you with a quote by Megan Dalla-Camina from Psychology Today.

“At the end of the day, remember this: You are here for a reason. In this job, your business, your life, you are worthy. You are better than you think you are. You are smarter than you think you are. You know more than you give yourself credit for. Remember that. And remind yourself as often as you need to”.

Good luck, be kind to yourself and go gently.

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Bravata, D. M., Watts, S. A., Keefer, A. L., Madhusudhan, D. K., Taylor, K. T., Clark, D. M., Nelson, R. S., Cokley, K. O., & Hagg, H. K. (2020). Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: a Systematic Review. Journal of general internal medicine, 35(4), 1252–1275. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-019-05364-1.

Cader, F. A., Gupta, A., Han, J. K., Ibrahim, N. E., Lundberg, G. P., Mohamed, A., & Singh, T. (2021). How Feeling Like an Imposter Can Impede Your Success. JACC. Case reports, 3(2), 347–349. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaccas.2021.01.003.

Mainali S. (2020). Being an Imposter: Growing Out of Impostership. JNMA; journal of the Nepal Medical Association, 58(232), 1097–1099. https://www.jnma.com.np/jnma/index.php/jnma/article/view/5505

Psychology today 2018, The Reality of Imposter Syndrome viewed 22 January 2022, <https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/real-women/201809/the-reality-imposter-syndrome>.

Margo White

Margo is an Endeavour College of Natural Health alumni and completed her Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine) in March 2021. Since graduating, Margo has been mentoring Endeavour students to prepare them emotionally, mentally, and practically for clinical subjects. Margo also runs her own clinic Whole Body Nutrition where she is the lead Nutritionist.

Margo's Nutrition journey began after the birth of her two children, who have inspired her towards healthy eating and cooking with wholefoods. When it comes to healing, Margo takes a whole-body approach. This encompasses not just food and diet, but the whole person including physical, mental and emotional health. Margo believes that food can be used as medicine to gently nourish, strengthen and support overall health and wellbeing.

Margo has a special interest in student mentoring, anxiety and stress management, fatigue, nutrition for teenagers and children, digestive health, skin health and women's health.

Read more by Margo White

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