Career Outlook

Ruth Kirk

Ruth Kirk

Clinical Resources Officer

How did you get your job as a Naturopath/Clinical Resources Officer?

I got my job as a result of getting lots of experience whilst I studied and directly after graduating. This included working in health food stores, building my technical writing and research skills from work experience placements at supplement companies, and backing that up with working at successful clinics in various roles as a receptionist, intern and eventually clinician.

After getting a taste for clinical practice and interning with Goulds Natural Health in Tasmania for two years I thought I would put all my experience toward helping other practitioners as a Technical Support agent with a product company. After 18 months, the opportunity to move into a writing role in the same company came up with a focus on developing clinical resources – which is something I really wanted to work on to help others practice more effectively and confidently. Everything along the way helped direct me to doing something I care about, which is helping practitioners feel empowered in their clinical practice.

What’s a typical working day like?

The tasks I work on are a blend of practical resources (such as blogs, treatment protocols and infographics) and technical tasks (research and science writing). My average day varies a lot, but a typical workload in the last two days has involved editing two blogs I wrote, reviewing and memorising a 20 minute PowerPoint and then presenting it the next day, proofing and formatting a 45 minute presentation designed for the public, reviewing scientific research and conducting a literature review on product ingredients, cross checking primary references within research papers and then writing a page of background information on fibre deficiency. I also followed up patients involved in an in-house wellness clinic for company staff and worked on a building a resource database in preparation for a big revamp project of our clinical resources.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It’s a great balance of stimulating and satisfying opportunities which help me grow professionally. From being able to attend industry conferences and meeting a range of practitioners and learning their views from clinical practice, to having really in-depth meetings discerning clinical cases or controversial research. I also work with an amazing bunch of people, who give a lot of energy not just to their role but to behind-the-scenes projects that benefit the rest of the industry.

What are the challenges?

At the start of the year everyone in my team was entirely new to the tasks and responsibilities within our job description, it took a lot of feedback and mistakes to identify what needed to be refined and put into processes so everyone could produce great work. That was a challenge that needed solutions that could only be developed by us as we went. In a way, it’s just like most challenges naturopaths come across because what we do is so unique – we have to come up with the tailored solutions all the time, from our business model to our patient care – there is no YouTube tutorial on How-To-Naturopath/Clinical Resource Officer-Successfully, but, that said, overcoming challenges like that are very rewarding, especially when it’s a team effort driven by passion and purpose.

Another challenge for me is being potentially perceived as biased or ‘less ethical’ because I work for a company, even though I’m proud of holding myself to a high standard, and I know that quality, integrity and evidence-based practice are important values in my team. I think we’ve all been exposed to some kind of displeasure that leading figures in the industry have to say about supplement companies, which is fair enough – I completely understand and appreciate where those people are coming from, but those attitudes can negatively influence students and graduates from taking on learning experiences with companies, or even deter them from using resources written by naturopaths like me because they don’t want to feel ethically compromised within their clinical practice.

The challenging part is that I want to contribute to the industry moving forward, however because my work is endorsed by a company, it could be perceived that our resources are ‘biased’ and therefore don’t support the best interests of practitioners. I think they should be leveraged alongside all the fantastic non-for-profit/independent education events that have emerged, especially in the last five years or so. I like to think that I balance my contribution beyond my work in a supplement company by turning up for my local NHAA chapter and hosting free community events on their behalf, and investing in the Australian Naturopathic Society and Root and Branch events, because I think they really are important in building a united profession that other health professionals would/should be jealous of.

How relevant is your degree in Naturopathy?

Extremely relevant, however I strongly believe that practical experience is just as importance as smarts, especially if you want to be a clinician, but also for building a career that can extend beyond clinical practice. I would encourage students to get involved with the naturopathic community as soon as they can, and not wait until after you’ve graduated to learn about the industry.

How has your career developed and what are your career ambitions?

It’s developed from lots of different experiences, but perhaps the biggest development factor was mentorship which helped me flourish into a practitioner that ‘first year’ me would have been thrilled to aspire to be. My ambition is to be a respected professional in the healthcare community, and to develop a practice which is truly aligned with my values; that doesn’t lose sight of traditional wisdom that make naturopathy remarkably powerful, and practices evidence-based medicine.

What are your top tips for others wanting to be a Naturopath?

Know what a clinician does, reach out to naturopaths near you and see if you can sit in on consults. Invest in finding a great mentor and get involved in the naturopathic community by volunteering your time within NHAA chapters (if you live in Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne). Otherwise finding a group of friends to share educational subscriptions with and volunteering at conferences can help you orient yourself to what is happening in the industry (if you can’t go, google the name of the presenters and check them out).

I would also suggest considering work experience holidays (in permaculture farms, herbal medicine farms and apothecaries – Instagram is the best tool for finding these places), and definitely be a good student for your lecturers because they want to see you thrive and often offer excellent mentorship, and even job opportunities.