Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your career?
Well I always knew I wanted to be a dietitian. I did work experience in year 10 with a community dietitian and from then on that was always going to be the path I was going to take. I started doing Health Science (public health) at uni as a means to transfer into the 4-year bachelor which was relatively at the time… I then moved to Wollongong to do my dietetics, then went back to Melbourne and completed my health science degree so after 7 long years, I got both bachelors! I always thought I would go into community work or public health however my first job was servicing nursing homes across Victoria as well as consulting at a doctor’s surgery and doing some workplace presentations. I did all of this for about 12 months and then we moved interstate to Canberra. At that point, I was looking at travelling less and putting all my eggs in the one basket. In Canberra I worked for the Diabetes Service in an outpatient setting. I really don’t like hospitals, so I was grateful to have the opportunity to do something I loved in the community setting. After 7 years, we then moved to the Gold Coast and I have gone from a very long stint in the public system to working in surgical weight loss in a private practice. I am also one half of the team at The Ambitious Dietitian which I started with my husband nearly 12 months ago. Daniel and I have a very busy life trying to keep up with our The Ambitious Dietitian clients and running around after our children, we have a nearly 6-year-old, a 3-year-old and 4-month-old twins so you could say we have a very loud and full house!!!
2) What were your initial experiences like as a dietitian? Do you have any stories/insights that you experienced early on in your career that shaped the direction that you ended up taking?
Ok, so when I say my first job was in aged care that was my first job I stuck at…… My actual first job was supposed to be in a food service role however it somehow turned into a waitressing job. I remember coming home at 1am thinking “I’ve got my degree now, I thought the late nights were behind me.” It didn’t take me long to start looking for other opportunities! I think in my experience, I took what work I could as I knew how hard it was to find a job, but I also wanted to stay aligned with who I wanted to be as a dietitian. I think I juggled a lot – aged care, workplace presentations and doctor’s clinics in my first year out but they all gave me insight into myself and forced me to seek out the work I really loved doing.
3) You worked for the largest private practice in Melbourne at one stage. What are some of the reasons for their success that you see? What set them apart from other dietitians?
Yes, I did work for Melbourne Dietetic Centre which was the largest private practice in Melbourne at the time. They had a large team of dietitians – both senior and junior staff and they serviced much of Victoria. I think their success can be attributed to very much finding a niche and being the best in that niche. As a business, they didn’t try to be a jack of all trades. They also were very systems focused and I believe once you have a system in place that works, replicating that is going to set you up for success time and time again. From a more personal level, I was working very autonomously however I never felt unsupported as I had a senior staff member who I would regularly check in with so that was important to make sure I still felt part of the team which is hard when you are always working “on the road”.
4) A large part of your career has been focused on patients with diabetes. What about that area interested you?
I really do love diabetes. I think for me, I love helping people, but helping people who want to help themselves is twice as rewarding. Often people would come in to see me after a very recent diagnosis of diabetes and trust me, there is nothing more motivating to change your lifestyle than a diagnosis of a chronic long-term condition. My patients were there because they wanted to be, not because they had to be. I also loved working in a multidisciplinary team. I worked alongside diabetes educators, social workers, podiatrists and endocrinologists so having the luxury to duck into the room next door to speak to someone about a patient in need was extremely helpful. It’s just so true when they say, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”. We also had a recall system so often I would see patients every year for a check-up and knowing they were still on track and doing well from your initial education was quite rewarding.
5) With the management of Type 2 Diabetes, do you have a preference for a specific style of nutritional management e.g. lower carb dieting or the carbohydrate exchange system? Can you delve into how your experience with clients shaped this approach?
In my experience, I always followed a carbohydrate exchange system coupled with general healthy eating and activity guidelines. I loved being able to say you can have Christmas pudding on Christmas Day and a little bit of sugar in your coffee won’t hurt you. There is so much information out there that patients would just take it to the extreme so normalising behaviour around food and not necessarily being the one who tells them they can’t have something is a really nice thing to be able to do. I always made a joke that you don’t expect the dietitian to be telling you to eat more but often I was. More veg, more fruit, more dairy and I like to think they walked away thinking us dietitians aren’t the food police anymore. Our patients have diabetes for the rest of their lives, so they were always going to be in our “system”. I found that if you started off on the right foot with them, they were always willing to engage with you down the track when things weren’t going as well for them. You have to earn their respect first.
6) I believe a lot of your current work as a dietitian is focusing on bariatric surgery. What is that like?
Currently I am on maternity leave but yes, my role now that I am returning to is in a multidisciplinary team-based clinic helping patients over a 12-month period with their journey before, during and after weight loss surgery. Reflecting now, I can see so many similarities between my current job and the diabetes service. Both outpatient setting, multidisciplinary team and patients are very motivated to change their life. They are the ones driving the decision. Often, they come to us in desperation and they really are at the end of the road with their weight loss options so to see the changes in their lives down the track is truly amazing. We have people who improve their fertility and get pregnant, we have people who have more confidence to apply for jobs they never would have before which gives them financial freedom, we have people not missing out on once in a lifetime opportunity, we see people get remission of so many conditions. It is honestly an amazing field to be in.
7) More recently you have started the Ambitious Dietitian. What is this project about and how can it help dietitians?
I started The Ambitious Dietitian mid last year with my husband after completing some interviews for a new grad position at my work. There were so many qualified dietitians who were still struggling to find employment. During this interview process, I was hearing of people working in hotels, motels and even sushi train 6-12 months after graduation. It really surprised me, and I was so taken back to hear of so many dietitians not being able to find a job. They were clearly qualified to do so much more than they were doing, and I wanted to help them get into the field they had studied so long for, so we started The Ambitious Dietitian. We basically help dietitians who wanted to pursue private practice. We want them to feel supported in what is usually a very isolating job. We are someone to bounce ideas off, help them leverage and grow their business and keep them accountable to their goals. We not only work with new grads, but also more experienced dietitians helping them bring their dreams into reality. Business is tough and it’s tough when you are new to it and don’t have that team around you for support. People have very different journeys in private practice, so we try to design packages for our clients based on exactly what they need for where they are positioned in their business at that very moment. That may be starting with a business plan, defining their avatar, developing branding guidelines, implementing marketing strategies including digital marketing such as our social media course, providing blogging education, mentoring, supporting clients through expansion and developing passive income streams whilst keeping them accountable and on track with regular meetings.
8) What are some of your top tips for students or new graduates who have ambitions to succeed in private practice at some stage?
1- Be Committed: I think if you are going to pursue private practice, you need to be committed to it and be willing to put everything on the line for it as it takes time to build up and it will consume you 24/7 for the initial period but obviously if you love what you are doing, you can make it successful. Don’t just do it until something better comes up.
2- Don’t Bulk Bill: As a new grad, it’s great to get experience but I think all dietitians need to value their time and profession and charge accordingly. I know this is an ongoing debate that many have had for a very long time but as whole, we need to stand together on this and our fees need to reflect our expertise.
3- Find Your Niche: do the work that makes your heart sing. What are you passionate about? What is it you want to call work? Who do you want to work with? By knowing all of this, you will thrive in your environment and success will follow.
9) What are some practical tips that you have for dietitians looking to improve the effectiveness of their marketing attempts?
– Know who your audience is and who you are talking too. Who do you want to attract?
– Create content that addresses their felt need not what you think they want to know.
– Don’t take on all platforms at once. Try and stick to one platform at a time and once you have got that down pat, move on to your next one.
– Step out of your comfort zone and create a product. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a physical product, it may be a downloadable resource. If it is something that they need, it will be something that they are willing to pay for.
– If you haven’t started blogging, start now. It’s a great way to gain trust and build your email list. By focusing on building your own list of subscribers you won’t be affected by any algorithm changes in the future as it will all belong to you.
– Start optimising your website for voice search. We suggest optimising for conversation keywords by creating a question and answer page (FAQ) or write individual blog posts answering customer questions and optimise for local queries by registering with Google My Business and including the “near me” phrases on your website.
10) Is there anything else you would like to add?
If anyone would like a FREE 20 minute Fire Starter Session with us here at The Ambitious Dietitian to talk to us about starting their own private practice or how to up level their existing business, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Aidan has been exposed to the most recent and up-to-date evidence based approaches to dietetic intervention. Dating back to well before starting uni he has been fascinated by all things nutrition, particularly the effects of different dietary approaches on body composition and sports performance. Due to this passion, he has built up an extensive knowledge base in multiple areas of nutrition and is able to help clients with a variety of conditions. One of Aidan’s main strengths is his ability to adapt plans based on the clients desires. By having such a thorough understanding of optimal nutrition for different situations he is able to develop detailed meal plans for clients, or he can provide flexible guidance that can contribute to improving the clients overall quality of life.