By Geraldine Headley

Let’s set the scene. You have finished your formal education and have graduated as a fully-fledged, qualified health practitioner. If there was ever a real-life example of going from being the big fish in a small pond, to a tadpole in the Pacific Ocean, it would be the leap we take from college to unsupervised clinical practice. The reality check is indisputable! No matter how good your grades, working as an independent practitioner comes with its own unique set of challenges.

A part of this rite of passage usually involves spending an unspeakable number of hours looking at published research, trawling the internet for tried and true treatment protocols and comparing the dizzying amount of different magnesium products available for the one that is just right for your client.

As holistic health professionals, we all understand just how unique each client is – there are infinite combinations of symptoms, history and personalities. Confidence is key when it comes to making recommendations to clients.

It becomes quickly apparent that the more you learn, the less you know. More often than not, you find yourself wishing that you could skip forward to the part where you have twenty years of clinical experience under your belt and the big book of answers that comes with it.

So how to best bridge those knowledge gaps, get the reassurance and support that is so crucial in the first year (or twenty) of clinical practice? Mentoring!

Mentoring isn’t just for new graduates, either. No matter how experienced you are in your chosen field, there is always going to be someone with more wisdom and life experience. Having a fresh perspective or second opinion on a tricky case is invaluable, regardless of time served.

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” – John Crosby.

Keeping you accountable for your goals

Spending time with a mentor is like having a personal trainer. There is the expectation that you are going to show up, do the work, get better and then celebrate together. Mentoring isn’t exclusively about how to best treat your client with that mysterious rash, it’s also important for the business and marketing side of clinical practice. It is easy to get excited, come up with long to-do lists of projects and ideas and then never really get around to executing them. A good mentor will share in your enthusiasm, support you to formulate a strategy, give feedback and advise you on how to implement each task to keep your dreams on track. This might be a goal to grow your client base, create a program or write a book. When you are both the boss and the employee in your business, having a mentor to answer to, when you don’t feel like answering to yourself, is a monumental support.

Save yourself time and money 

Ever thought to yourself “I don’t know enough to treat that, maybe if I do this (insert online course name) I’ll feel confident enough to tackle it?” Mentoring can be a great shortcut past days’ worth of repetitive webinar or online course content. Not to say that you shouldn’t get stuck into some further education, but often the juicy clinical pearls can be gleaned from an experienced mentor without having to sit through hours of less relevant information. Same goes for the PubMed abyss – many practitioners will confirm that anecdotal evidence can be just as effective in clinic as those substantiated by hard empirical evidence. Save your precious time, avoid burnout from late nights reading research articles and ask your mentor for help.

CPE points

Did you know that those hours of professional mentoring can be cashed in for CPE points each year? Professional associations look favourably upon those who are proactive in the betterment of both themselves and the industry as a whole. Partaking in mentoring will earn you a big gold star!

Mentoring options to suit everybody

The avenues for mentoring are endless! There’s one on one support, group mentoring programs, private mentors and government programs. Support really is always there for those who ask for it. For those starting a new business, there is the New Business Assistance with NEIS which provides personalised support all over the country for Australian’s starting a new small business. This program provides access to training, financial support and personalised mentoring for over 8000 participants each year. It’s a fabulous initiative to explore for anyone embarking on a new small business venture.

Finding a mentor

Sit down and have a think about which areas of your practice you would like support in. Make a list of your strengths, as well as what you would like to work on. If you feel like you have the clinical knowledge covered but have no idea when it comes to marketing yourself or growing your business, perhaps you are looking for a business mentor. Gill Stannard has been mentoring complementary health practitioners in all facets of running a clinical practice for three decades. Gill will help you to find your groove when it comes to business skills, clinical competence, self-care and self-confidence. These are the four pillars that Gill believes are essential in building a successful clinic that not only serve your clients, but serve you as well!

For group mentoring in clinic as well as business, look no further than Mentoring with Geraldine, by, you guessed it, yours truly! See my bio for details! Group mentoring is fabulous because it is like entering the hive mind. You have access to not just one mentor but several impressive minds of mentees also, who are just as willing to share their wisdom. Solo practice can be lonely and mentoring groups help to provide solidarity and a sense of community.

If you have read this far and feel like there’s nothing left to learn from anyone (unlikely), then perhaps you should consider becoming a mentor to others! Share that big beautiful brain and offer your experience to others.