Key insights into a successful transition to practice
14th Oct, 2021

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Jacqui Fahey (0:07): Welcome to Common Ground a podcast series discussing new research and interesting projects in the field of complementary medicine. Hello, my name is Jacqui Fahey, Head of Education at vitally. is a digital platform, a professional health resource and a distribution service all in one.

Firstly, I'd like to begin by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora nation as the traditional custodians on the land in which we gather here.

As healthcare professionals, there are many factors to consider for transitioning into clinical practice from legal, financial, and marketing considerations, to business structure, vision, and type of practice.

These are all important aspects to consider, but where do you start? What are your priorities?

Today on Common Ground I am speaking with Christine Pope. Christine is an experienced naturopath and nutritionist who provides a high standard of natural health care with a clinical focus on healthy aging, managing chronic disease and supporting clients with cancer. Christine is also an experienced Educator and was Head of Nutritional Medicine at Nature Care College from 2012 to 2015. Christine is currently serving as an elected Director of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society and is the Treasurer as well as the Chair of the Marketing committee. Christine is also a Director at the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia.

Having run a successful series on transition to practice, Christine shall be sharing with us today some of the insights, Welcome to Common Ground Christine.

Christine Pope (01:41): Thank you. And thanks for having me here today.

Jacqui Fahey (01:44): Lovely to have you here Christine, we would love to hear a little bit about yourself. What firstly led you into practicing in naturopathic medicine?

Christine Pope (01:53): Look, I have to say, and in some ways it was actually my mum who influenced me. There we go. So it's interesting cause I've had two careers and one was influenced by my father and one was influenced by my mother. So up I was working for Macquarie bank and I had two children and they were bringing home every bug known to mankind I have to say and as they tend to do at that age. And every time I had mainstream medical treatment, it just made me sicker. So I started getting fairly desperate and looking around and my mother actually gave me the name of a naturopath and said, I really think you need to go and see them and I did. And what I found was homoeopathy works really well for me and really helped me, and help my immune system recover. So when I was looking to move into a different profession, I looked at studying and I looked at homoeopathy initially, started first year and then added nutrition because I was like, oh my God, I've got to have these. And then eventually I also upgraded to naturopathy.

Jacqui Fahey (02:53): Great, fantastic. So transition to practice, this is our topic for today, in an area that you have experience in. What are some of the first essential steps for a successful transition to practice?

Christine Pope (03:07): Look, I think in this environment now, if you can actually do some of the work before you set up the clinic, it's ideal. So if you can set up your website and your social media and start letting people know how you can help and you know, your social media, you can actually do in the year before you graduate, because it's actually a really great way to get people into student clinic and start building that word of mouth that everyone talks about. And I think and then the next thing I would say is just do it, you know, I know that's a bit Nike, but realistically rent a room and get started because the longer you spend thinking about it, the harder it all seems to get, and the more things you think you need to do. So  get your website set up, find yourself, a nice space to operate from, or, you know, set up your online environment to operate from because a lot of people in our industry can do that and then get out there and let people know how you can help.

And I think that's the other thing I found was really important is letting you know, actually going out there and talking to the other people in your industry. And one of the things I was covering in transition of practices, the importance of networking, and I think networking has a really bad name because people think of network marketing and it's not that it's actually getting out there and meeting all the other professionals who are in your area and, you know, it's the chiropractor and the other you know, the massage therapists and all the other practitioners who ultimately you will end up referring to and hopefully they will end up referring back to you as well.

Jacqui Fahey (04:49): That's a good point about cross referral.

Christine Pope (04:54): And look, I was part of a small business group that I joined about five years after I set up practice and, you know, it's taken me a long time to learn these lessons. So I tend to like to learn things the hard way. And of the 20 women who are in that group and it was a women's group who met at lunchtime and they're all different businesses, you know, after about 12 months, I think most of them had either come and seen me or referred clients to me. And it just felt like I had this really supportive community around me.

It's a big difference.

Jacqui Fahey (05:25): Yes it does doesn't it. And so what are some of the challenges you've heard from graduates and what, what has helped them overcome some of these challenges?

Christine Pope (05:33): I think one of the biggest challenges in our industry is this imposter syndrome feeling like I don't know enough, I'm not good enough. And look, we all go through this at various stages. In fact, I remember graduating from homeopathy and thinking, oh, funny, I could go back and start studying this all again. I pick up so much more now because I know what I need to know. And so, you know, this is sort of feeling of not being good enough. And the reality is when you graduate, you actually do have a lot of really amazing current information. You've got some really good structures and protocols. So it's really just about building that confidence. But I think one of the things that's really important is to find yourself a mentor because if you talk to your friends who all studied at the same time, they're all going to say, oh yeah, that's a great idea, you're doing wonderfully, blah, blah, blah. They're going to give you that emotional stroking, but they won't necessarily say, look, have you really thought about whether, you know, there's an allergy picture coming up here that you need to deal with a little something else. So one of the things I did after I graduated was and remembering, I came out of 20 years in corporate, so you wouldn't have thought I was really lacking in confidence but what I did was I went and did an internship at Harbord Homoeopathic Clinic for a year while I was finishing off my nutrition students subjects. And that was really good. So I probably do an extra 300, 400 hours of clinic effectively and sitting in with all these other experienced practitioner, but also making up kits and doing all those other things. It really taught me a lot about being a practitioner and how to run a practice. So that was really helpful.

Jacqui Fahey (07:17): Some good points that you share there. You mentioned just earlier because I was going to ask you, is it important to have a website? What would you say for those not tech savvy?

Christine Pope (07:28): Outsource and or just, you know, just start. Look, it can be as simple as really a flyer with five pieces of information, you know, who you are, what you do, where you're based, how you can help, how to contact me for an appointment. It doesn't have to be, you don't have to think of it as bigger than Ben Hur. It can really just be a flyer, but I want you to think about, it's two o'clock in the morning and your pipes are leaking and you need a plumber now, where do you go to find that person? You don't go to the yellow pages anymore. You go on and you Google 24 hour plumber in your area. So if people are looking for naturopath to help them or a homoeopath or a herbalist or whatever, they're looking for, they're going to be jumping onto Google or another search engine.

And that's how they find you. So one of the things I've found in I've been through a couple of different clinic formats and I did set one up after we lost a clinic in a fire with a colleague. We did it all in six weeks. And I really wouldn't recommend that because it's kind of crash through. But you know, when we got there and our first website was pretty simple. One of the things we did was we tracked where all our clients came from for that first month. And you know, this is a group of really experienced practitioners and they all told me, it was 80% word of mouth. Well, it was 40% the website and about 30% other practitioners and then 20% word of mouth and about 10% out signage up front. So actually understanding where your clients are coming from is really important. But in that case, what I'd say is you don't want to miss out on that 40% that are coming through the website.

Jacqui Fahey (09:18): Yes. And so when you say flyer, is that a digital flyer or is that a physical flyer putting in someone's letterbox, the old fashioned way?

Christine Pope (09:24): Look, I've done both. I have to say I delivered a thousand flyers when I first set up clinic and I think I got one phone call from it. So I would definitely go with, make this and what I'm saying is, that the flyer is kind of like... or the brochure that you would normally have physically, is basically what the website is but it's digital.

Jacqui Fahey (09:44): Right, yes ok, thanks for clarifying. And so what about blogging?

Christine Pope (09:49): It's really invaluable because it's actually a really great way to come up with lots of content that you can then share and recycle and reuse. So I've just re posted a blog that I wrote, I don't know, maybe 18 months ago on what sort of vegetables feed your microbiome. And I've had more traction on that blog the third time I posted it than the first two times. So, you know, the good thing with blogging is you can keep reusing it, but it's also a really good way for people to see how you work and how you think, and whether your someone they can work with. But if you've got them attached to your website, it actually and you're using all the sort of keywords that people would be searching on. It's actually another way that the little website trawlers go through and go, oh, okay, yes, you know, I can see you're a naturopath in this area but I can also see you are a naturopath who deals with digestive issues and you've mentioned bloating and flatulence and everything else. So it's actually, if someone's searching on different terms, it's actually helps bring you up at the top of that search engine, because the goal is kind of the first page of Google. The other thing with blogs is each blog I write is kind of eight or nine Facebook posts as well. So I can take snippets of that information and then that gives me like two or three weeks of content for Facebook.

Jacqui Fahey (11:11): Good tips. There can be a lot of juggling of roles in clinical practice as I'm sure you can appreciate from being the actual practitioner, to managing accounts, to dispensary, to marketing and you're just starting out. So what can help with this? Is there a space here for bartering? What is your experience in that space?

Christine Pope (11:32): Look there's pros and cons on bartering. And I find it very, it's a bit difficult if you're an ingestive therapist because not everyone necessarily needs treatment at that point in time, whereas, you know, massage, most people very happily get a massage on a regular basis. So maybe I would say, look for some really simple systems that build in a lot of the functionality you need, whether it's something like a practice management system, whether it's something like’s ordering system with all the other functionality that's in there, look for things that actually cover you for a lot of your weaknesses. So basically my view is outsource what you hate doing, because the chances are those are the jobs that you'll spend the least, you know, that you'll really resent. You'll spend a lot of time on it and you won't be terribly productive. So even though I'm actually qualified in accounting, the first job I outsourced was bookkeeping. You know, we built our first website and then we outsourced the second one because it was just, you know it's not what I do and I'm not that good at it.

But I do think it's really important that you are across your numbers and you have some sort of software that you can use. And I would really recommend for most small businesses, they look at something like Xero or MYOB, which is ‘mind your own business’. Personally, I find Xero has, I just think it's got superior functionality in terms of, you know, you can have all your invoices attached to it etc.

 It makes it really easy to work. It's very user-friendly for non-accountants. But it's really important to understand what money you've got coming in and what money you've got coming out. And the other thing I would say is make sure that you really have some, you know, you have a little bit of a nest egg when you first set up clinic so that you can actually afford to spend money on some of these things. Cause most people, when they're setting up a business, you know, if you look for businesses that are on sale and the environment, you know, you look at something like a doughnut franchise, right. And it's a hundred thousand dollars to buy it. So spending five or ten grand setting up your business with the right systems and procedures is really not a significant expenditure in terms of the overall longevity of your business.

Jacqui Fahey (14:00): And how are you finding on our own throwing another question in here for you? How are you finding your transition into practice since COVID, conducting practice online? How's that going for you?

Christine Pope (14:12): Well, I've learned quite a few things about it. One was that I was quite resistant to going online and I really had to be pushed into it by the current outbreak to really consider it. And it's actually been really good. In fact, I've found with some of the homoeopathic interviews, doing it on zoom has actually created a really nice space where we could work more deeply than perhaps they’re prepared to doing in clinic where there's a lot of other distractions around. So I did find, I found zoom good.

I found doing zoom webinars was a good way for me, cause I couldn't go out and do talks like I would normally do or, you know, network with people or any of the other things that were bringing people into clinic. So I run little zoom webinars and my first one was a free one I did on supporting the other supporting vaccinations holistically. And I've shared information on that and I actually ended up running it again because I was getting so many questions constantly in clinic. And I'd say, you know, when you're in student clinic, if there's something that you get asked about all the time and you're constantly talking about, they're really good things to run little webinars about. And I find around the 40, 45 minutes works well.

Jacqui Fahey (15:27): When you came into clinical practice, did you specialise straight away or you sort of kept broad with your clinical practice, any sort of tips around there?

Christine Pope (15:41):Look, initially I did really focus on mums and kids. And I think that was because what I did was I set up and ran a lot of homoeopathic first aid workshops. And I always remember one of my first ones because, you know, you, you do, I had three people in it, which, you know, was not great. But one of them brought her five month old baby with her, so that baby's been brought up homoeopathically and we and there were two other older ladies there and I could tell one of them was just desperate to get her hands on the baby and she did by the second week she was sitting there and holding him, cuddling baby through the whole thing. So she was just desperate to be a grandma and it wasn't happening. But you know, going back to that, running those classes, what I've found was that I trained people up about how to use all the simple homoeopathics and then I would get the more complicated cases.

So that was I think initially I focused more on kids and mums and it was because of those first aid courses. And look, I think there is value in, if you have a particular topic of interest. I do think there's a real value in sort of focusing your interest there. And really, you know, because it's saying you'll do the extra education in that area. You'll actually develop a much broader and deeper knowledge and you can be much more efficient. And also you can actually morph online a lot more easily if you're focusing on one or two areas rather than, you know all things for all people.

Jacqui Fahey (17:15): Yes. Good point there. So what are some key takeaways from our chat today that you just would like to highlight? I know you've got a transition to practice series coming up that you'll be presenting. And I know there's a lot more to share in this space, but what are some key takeaways for our listeners?

Christine Pope (17:32): Okay. Well, if I can just quickly say with the transition to practice seminar series, we are running it in November and it's really good value for ATMS student members. So the four workshops are like $75 for them and we've got, I've actually, I've actually outsourced to Jacqui and it's not because I dislike it. It's just that I thought, wouldn't it be great if I could get some people who are really amazing in this sector to provide information. So I've got one speaker doing the operating and clinic operations and clinics set up, and I've got a couple of other practitioners who are doing timelines mindset. We've got someone talking on a website and Facebook and social media. So I've roped in some real, you know, we've had them presenting for ATMS in other areas and I just thought it would be really nice to have that content for new practitioners. And then if I was going to my takeaways for people listening today just do it, get a website. You really, really need it and network. And so if I could say nothing else spend as much of your time and energy on marketing, who you are and what you do so that you can continue to be who you are and what you do for the future.

Jacqui Fahey (18:50): Yes. You are your brand aren't you.

Christine Pope (18:52): Well, exactly. And you know, you put all this time and energy into studying, please make it worthwhile for you going forward. And if I could say, look up one of the things I could always, we could always tell in clinic, which practitioners were going to be successful. And it's because they dragged everyone they knew in student clinic. So by the time they graduated, they had a pool of people who are already out there saying you should go and see Pam. She's awesome. You know, you really use that student clinic time to start building your word of mouth and your practice.

Jacqui Fahey (19:33): Well said. Well, thank you Christine for sharing your wisdom and experience today, you've said some really valuable insights. So thank you for coming on Common Ground today.

Christine Pope (19:42): You're welcome. And thanks, Jacqui, I really enjoyed doing that.

Jacqui Fahey  (19:45): Thank you to our listeners. Please subscribe to Common Ground. We appreciate your support and feel free to leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you. Thank you.


Christine Pope website - Elemental Health

Christine Pope blog