Facing New Grad Challenges Head On

Written by Megan Schlick, ND, Bastyr Grad 2011

When I decided I was going back to my home state to start my career without doing a residency, I knew it was going to be challenging. Without advertised openings for “naturopathic physicians,” overwhelmed was an understatement. Although I was confident in my education and training, I wanted to be in a situation where I could continue to learn from colleagues while building a client base. I realized that practicing in a state that was unaware of naturopathic medicine, gaining respect from traditional practitioners was key. Those circumstances led me to pursue hospitals. I was approaching unchartered waters, but I thought my efforts were worth the challenge.

I initially drafted a letter that I sent to several area clinics with multiple practitioners. In brief, I explained my education, my passion for collaborating with conventional practitioners and my interest in offering naturopathic medicine to my new community. After several unsuccessful pursuits, I received a call from a well-respected local hospital and within a few weeks I was meeting with the chief operations officer, medical director and my future clinic manager. I had 2 weeks to prepare for my initial interview and spent that entire time drafting my vision for a hospital employed integrative practitioner.  I tried to answer questions I knew they would have. “How would I fit into a conventional framework?” “How was I to gain respect from the physicians?” “What was my expected salary?” I created handouts to provide at the meeting, as I knew I was fortunate to be given this interview platform and therefore made sure I did everything I could to impress. I was professional, yet had a sense of humor about our profession-which I found to be helpful. As naturopathic doctors, we are the experts in holistic, natural medicine and by the end of my first interview, they agreed. By the end of October 2011, I was seeing patients in an outpatient branch of the hospital.

Benefits of working in a large hospital facility:
1.  Daily learning opportunities: access to specialists, continuing education opportunities, medical library, frequent speaking opportunities.
2.  Able to help patients you normally might not see in private practice, good variety.
3.  Work under a community known organization, instant branding and leadership opportunities.
4.  Opportunities to network with conventional minded practitioners and with that, able to dispel any common misconceptions of “alternative medicine” providers (my favorite!).
5.  Job satisfaction: truly making a difference on a larger scale without much worry on the business side of medicine.

Words of advice to upcoming graduates:

1.  Don't get discouraged or take it personal, plan on getting numerous unreturned phone calls and “nos.”
2.  Be willing to feel uncomfortable. Cold calling is never easy but the more you do it, the better you become.
3.  Set a time frame and have a back-up plan. I gave myself 2 months to figure out my path and I didn't allow myself time to worry about my upcoming student loan debt. I was also realistic, I knew it might not work out and I had a plan of action if it didn't.
4.  Practice confidently communicating what you offer as a naturopathic doctor. Most of my patients are coming to see me because they heard a lecture I gave, were referred by other physicians, or were recommended by another patient. All of these avenues came down to me effectively communicating my services. Don't assume naturopathic medicine is as easy as a 15 second elevator speech.

Good luck to all the upcoming graduates! I have been in your shoes, and understand the stress you are all experiencing. We are a small profession, but opportunities are out there, you just have to be willing to propose them.

Thank you to Emerson Ecologics