Interview with Julie Masci, APD
New Life Nutrition
By Brett Parker, DietitianToBe
Julie Masci, APD is the director of New Life Nutrition, a Brisbane based private practice that services clinics around Brisbane, Queensland. Since starting the business in 2009, Julie has taken New Life Nutrition from strength to strength, and just recently expanded her business to take on two more dietitians, Kate Lakeman and Nicola Weedon.
Julie is regularly seen on television as an expert dietitian on Channel 9 News, Channel 7 News, Today Tonight and Brisbane Extra. She also has an extensive Facebook and twitter following that she uses to maintain regular communication and advice to her ever-growing patient base.
I was fortunate enough to talk with Julie recently to gain insight into how she has managed to be so successful in such a short amount of time.
Julie even shared a few tips on how students can get ahead in an incredibly competitive industry!
Thank you again for your time Julie, and wishing you, Kate, Nicola and team the best of success into the future – your patients glowing reviews are truly inspiring!
Brett (DietitianToBe) reporting for Dietitian Connection.
1.Can you tell us about the start of your dietetics career and why you decided to start your own private practice?
I came out of my degree and went straight into a private practice, although not in my own practice. I was a contractor for a company. After about a year and a half I decided to start some things myself and soon after New Life Nutrition was born. I’ve been running the business for four years now.
I decided to start my own business because I come from an Italian background of lots of small business owners including my dad and in-law’s who all own their own business. I guess it was in my upbringing that this was something we did! I also really liked the independence and that I could have my own systems and structures. It was really tough at the start but I quickly learned what worked and what didn’t!
2. You started on your own and now you have 2 other dietitians working with you. Firstly, why did you decide to expand the business and secondly, do you find balancing servicing your own clients and managing your staff difficult?
I put on the other two girls to assist with the clinic load. Certain clinics that I work in have been getting busier and I have found it’s been helpful to have the girls support, so that no patient isn’t ever unable to be seen and so that we can maintain consistent standards of service to all patients. I have also taken on board some other new clinics and there is only one of me and I can only split myself so many ways!
One of the great things about starting to build a team (as opposed to working solely-Brett) is that you have other ears to bounce ideas off and you can share ideas with one another.
Even though I have two staff to manage I am still just as hands on as before. It does, however, add an extra element having to manage two other members of the New Life Nutrition team. Obviously I can’t be in the room with them during consults however our dietitians have been trained using New Life Nutrition techniques so I am always very confident in their abilities. I have previous managerial experience so I have found that those skills have been useful in helping the transition from being a sole practitioner to the creation of a private practice team.
I have a set way that I like things done in consultations and I expect that the experience will be reflected across the board. I want patients to be confident that they will receive the same high standard of service no matter which of us they see from New Life Nutrition. Of course everyone has their unique style to make their sessions their own but this helps to maintain consistency as well as offer their own unique personality within a framework.
3. How has your day changed since Kate and Nicola came onboard?
My days haven’t really changed much since the girls came on board. I have a really great administration team who help me to manage the extra workload really well. I do have to be aware that if the girls need my support, I have to make myself available for them. We all regularly correspond via email, phone, text messages and at regular meetings.
I think if we had a central hub it would be different as we would be seeing each other more, but because we each work from different clinics and we live in different areas, we utilize virtual communication.
4. How do you find clients / how do you share the workload between all staff members?
We do get a lot of online enquiries, not just through our website, but also our Facebook. Doctor’s referrals still represent the majority of business as we are based in doctor’s clinics. They like to keep things in house and they are confident in our service. We get a lot of doctor’s referrals through both care plans and private referrals. Now that New Life Nutrition is getting more widely known, we are getting more word of mouth business. This is my favourite kind. I always say that if I never had to get another referral from anywhere else and all our clients cames from word of mouth that it would be the best result ever! You know you’ve done such a great job when the person has told someone else about you . That is a 3 if not a 10 fold potential for future business.
When it comes to the division of the workload, it depends a lot on location. Because we service so many clinics, the dietitian chosen by the administration girls will be the one servicing a particular area. We each also have slightly different specialties, so that again helps the administration girls decide who to team with each patient. I see a lot of patients for weight loss, irritable bowel(I love fixing guts!) and food intolerances in both children and adults. Kate is very experienced in weight management and chronic health management. Nicola also enjoys seeing patients for weight control but she also loves working with kids.
5. What sort of professional development do you pursue? Is it difficult to fit in with your workload?
With CPD, I do end up taking some time off, although I try to minimize the amount of time away from my clinics so as not to inconvenience my patients. Ideally I like to try and go to things that are on weekends. There are a few groups in Brisbane and the Gold Coast that host events on the weekend. I will always try to find topics that I am most interested in and are most relevant to what my CPD and practice goals are. I also do self-led study. For example, hot topics that come up in interest groups I’ll use as a guide for which journal publications to review and study.
I also find that by chatting with doctors I work with regularly I find out about different conditions that they are dealing with, which helps to give direction into areas to focus on. I have also been invited by doctors to attend conferences that they feel would be interesting and relevant to my practice. Doctors have actually helped encourage me to look into areas that I would have otherwise been unaware of.
6. You have been in dietetics for 6 years now. Have you seen any new trends in the types of patients you are seeing?
Weight loss is one of the biggest issues we see patients for. When people come to us, say on a care plan, it is not going to be for weight-loss, rather it’s going to be for a chronic disease. However, conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease will often be associated with the need for weight loss as it’s the underlying factor. I would say this represents around 80% of the people that we see. Diabetes is the second most common condition that we see people for. I’m definitely seeing a “diabesity” epidemic upon us.
On the positive side, people are becoming a lot more aware of it now. I’m having people identifying it as a problem before it manifests itself. They then come to us as a preventative measurement as they have seen the impact it has had to their parents, friends or other family members. They don’t want to go down that route. I don’t think we had that level of awareness 10-15 years ago. Hopefully the increasing levels of awareness will see our health improve over the next decade.
7. What advice would you give a student considering a career in private practice or starting their own business?
One of the things about getting into private practice that I would warn people about is that it is not as easy as you might think it is. I’ve seen a lot of new graduates finish university and think to themselves “I’m going to go out and start a private practice, it will be easy”. It’s not that easy! There is a lot of work and stress that goes along with it and a lot of paperwork too! On the outside it may look like you go into a doctors surgery and you see patients and it all just happens, but it’s not that simple. You also need to be aware of the fact that you don’t have the support that you would have in a team setting. As a new graduate it is probably better to connect yourself with a greater team network. I would recommend you work in a hospital for a while or within a bigger corporate business to increase your confidence and experience before going out on your own. As great as my tertiary education was, I learnt more (from an experience perspective) in the first 6-12 months of my dietetics working career than I did throughout my entire degree. This is because you get thrown things that are completely out of the blue and you sink or swim. That is really the best way of learning because sometimes you will sink but then you are able to reflect and learn from that. It is very scary, but if you persevere you are going to get somewhere and you are going to feel a great sense of accomplishment. That’s probably one of the biggest things with private practice. You get to see someone from the beginning of treatment until the end of treatment. They come because they want to see you, unlike an acute setting where they have to see you. That is hugely rewarding. But as I said, it is scary at first and it takes a lot of perseverance!
8. If you were looking to hire a new graduate, what sort of qualities would be most valuable to you? For example: university grades, related experience, personal attributes, volunteering experience and so on.
Grades are one aspect of it. I’ll always have a quick look at an applicants GPA, however I think that putting yourself out there and getting experience in different settings is vital. That way an employer can see you have had a feel for lots of different things. It also allows you the opportunity to learn what your passion is. You really need to know about lots of different things as opposed to specifics. Don’t look at specializing in an area initially because that may not end up being what you like doing in the long run. Go to lots of places, sit in on consults, even try out food service. Getting that broad spectrum looks great on your resume.
The absolute number one thing I look for though is personality! I look for someone that can make a connection. They must have the ability to draw someone in and make the patient want to come and see them regularly. Ultimately, having a strong patient connection is going to result in motivation. When someone is motivated by you they are going to want to better themselves because they know that they have someone supporting them.
Thanks Julie for a fantastic insight into New Life Nutrition. New Life Nutrition offers exceptional dietetics support all over Brisbane, Queensland. Their specialties are the management of chronic diseases such as: diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. They are also highly knowledgeable in the areas of gastrointestinal disorders and intolerances. If you are looking for provider of personalised and practical lifestyle solutions that are simple and easy to follow, please contact them on (07) 3071 7405.
Mobile: 0408 758 701