What to include in a first nutrition appointment
Your first nutrition appointment with new clients is crucial for establishing a good rapport and gaining their trust. Here’s everything you need to know about first appointments so you can set your nutrition business (and clients) up for success.
Whether you are a seasoned practitioner or new to private practice, it’s important to make a lasting impression with any new clients. However, with so much to discuss, some topics may fall by the wayside. Whether it’s a client’s medical history, dietary preferences, goals, or lifestyle changes, the sheer amount of information can start to feel overwhelming if you don’t have a game plan. Here are some of the most important things you should cover in a nutrition appointment to keep your clients coming back for more.
Be prepared before the nutrition appointment starts.
Gathering as much information as possible before the start of the appointment will allow you to maximize the time you have with the client. One way to do this is by asking the client to complete any nutrition assessment forms prior to meeting with you. These forms should include personal information, clinical and medical history, food history and preferences, and client concerns and motivations.
Tip: Nutrium’s software allows you to send the forms directly to the client and upload them to their account. Learn more about it with this article.
If your new client was referred by another healthcare provider, you may also have medical records and lab results to review before meeting with them.
Get to know the client as a person.
Even with completed assessment forms, it is important to go over this information with your client during the nutrition appointment. This will allow you to ask more personal questions and have your client express any needs or concerns. It also provides an opportunity to get a complete picture of your client, and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
As a nutrition professional, you know the services you offer and the expertise you bring to the table. However, many people may still be unsure of how a dietitian fits into the healthcare team, especially if they have never worked with one before. Take a moment to discuss any preconceived notions they may have about dietitians and nutrition, and make sure you understand (and address) their expectations and concerns.
Create an inviting atmosphere.
Meeting with a new provider can be overwhelming for a lot of people. Be prepared for clients to feel apprehensive during their first nutrition appointment, and offer a space where they feel safe. Creating a welcoming environment can strengthen the client/dietitian relationship, and your clients will be more open and honest if they know they are in a place that is accepting and free from judgment.
Here are a few ways to help ease their concerns.
- Be an attentive listener. Put your clients at ease with the 3 Rs: reflective listening, rephrasing, and reframing. Clients are more receptive when they feel like they are being heard.
- Provide reassurance. You may find it helpful to provide an example of how a client with similar needs was able to be successful. Most importantly, let them know that they are not alone in this journey.
- Offer your nutrition perspective. There are many ways to approach the same issue, and presenting the client with your perspective will give them insight to your methods. Being confident in your capabilities will also help gain their trust.
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Review your practice policies and expectations.
While this topic can be difficult and uncomfortable, it is meant to provide clear boundaries for both parties. Let your clients know important details about missed appointments, requesting records, and payments, and be clear about your working hours/response time. Don’t forget to provide every client with copies of your policies, and keep the signed agreement in their chart.
Establish a plan.
Every client will come in at a different point in their nutrition journey and have different needs. As such, you should collaborate with your client to start creating goals that are appropriate for them. However, not every client will be ready to take this step, so if you feel pushback during the first nutrition appointment, don’t pressure them; rather, gently guide them in that direction, help them discover their personal motivations, and revisit goals at a later time.
Tip: For suggestions on how to help clients incorporate healthy habits into their daily lives, read this article here.
At the end of the appointment, both parties should have a good understanding of the goals and expectations of the other person. After all, these are the building blocks to this professional working relationship, and without a solid foundation, it will be difficult for your client to find success.
Offer packages and other incentives.
While the first appointment gets clients in the door, you need to utilize other methods to keep them around. Here are some ways to retain clients.
- Schedule a follow-up. Don’t let your new client leave without scheduling a follow-up appointment. This will help keep clients motivated, and gives you the opportunity to check in on their progress and answer any questions they may have.
- Check up in-between sessions. Do a weekly check in (via email, text, or phone call) to assess how your clients are doing.
- Utilize email marketing. Offer an email mailing list with weekly tips, recipes, inspirational messages, and wellness suggestions.
- Free is best. Provide free downloadable materials that are helpful to each client’s needs.
- Create session packages. You can greatly improve your client retention rate by offering a package of sessions instead of a la carte menu. This will go a long way in how many clients you get and how long you retain them. One example of this could be to offer 3-month sessions (bundled at a discount with some extra perks) instead of individual sessions. This will not only save your clients money, but it provides additional value and keeps them coming back for more.
Going the extra mile gives your clients the value they seek, and they will be more likely to refer you to friends, family, and colleagues.
Your first nutrition appointment with new clients is crucial for establishing a good rapport and gaining their trust. From creating an inviting atmosphere to clarifying expectations, there are many things you can include in your first session to help your clients reach their goals. By outlining what you want to discuss and being open with your clients, you can improve retention rates, boost your business, and offer value-added resources.
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