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The world of private practice opens up many opportunities for dietitians to focus on specialization, with a flexible schedule and rewarding work. It isn’t as difficult as you may think!
Before I even started classes in Dietetics at Iowa State, I visualized myself in private practice. My sister was a business major and we drew up plans for running a nutrition and fitness business. Those ideas were put on the back burner after graduating and spending my first several years as an RD in job I loved. About two years ago, I started to consider private practice again. My business model today looks much different than that early visualization. I was inspired to consider private practice while networking with RDs who worked with what I was most passionate about: eating disorders and weight-neutral, non-diet nutrition. The more I networked and learned, the more I realized I couldn’t do what I dreamed by working for someone else. I started gathering information on what it took to open a private practice: how I would pay for overhead costs, what I would need to charge and how many clients I would need to see per week to make ends meet. My personal network of private practice RDs was my best resource for finding this information. They recommended the books Welcome to the REBELution: Seven Steps to the Nutrition Counseling Practice of Your Dreams and Pursuing Private Practice: 10 Steps to Start Your Own Business. I also competed in my community’s annual business plan competition, which provided me feedback on my business plan and helped me work through the business aspects that were all new to me. I even won second place!
Things fell into place and I launched my private practice this April of 2017: Food Freedom, LLC. The first few months in private practice have been both challenging and rewarding. Biggest challenges have been developing structure for work days, especially days without clients, and putting myself out there to doctors, therapists and others in the community. The work I do is a bit different than traditional dietetics, and not everyone understands a weight-neutral approach or nutritious eating without rules. A major source of stress is not having a steady income or benefits that an employer provides. The biggest rewards have been a flexible schedule, the ability to practice evidence-based nutrition in the way I desire, and most importantly, the connections I’ve made with clients. Seeing their relationship with food and their bodies improve through our work together brings me much joy and satisfaction. I believe that full eating disorder recovery is possible and that we can live peacefully in our bodies. It takes hard work for clients to swim against the cultural current and I am fortunate to witness their transformations.
For dietitians considering private practice, be inspired that it is relatively affordable and not as difficult as it may sound. Support from peers who are running their own practices is vital. I will pass along the advice that was given to me: let it happen organically; don’t force it. When the time is right, things will fall into place!
Michelle Kuster, RD, LD
Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor
Owner, Food Freedom, LLC
218 N 3rd Street, Suite 716, Burlington, IA 52601