Diary of a Student Nutritionist - Week 11 - Seeing My First Client

Seeing My First Client

This day felt like it was a long time coming and the evening before I defiantly had imposter syndrome, where I could not imagine that I was old enough or skilled enough to be seeing my first client. However, when I was all dressed up I really felt the part and was ready to be a practitioner.

I was very pleased that I had taken the clinic sessions very seriously during my second year. I worked hard to get my head around the paperwork and questioning which then meant that on the day I could focus on the client and getting through the nerves.

I do however wish that we had the opportunity to practice on each other a little more before the session as the last time I had taken a case properly was six months previous. I was very nervous about how I would feel in the practitioner's chair and was worried I may have forgotten important questions or would feel very nervous. The best way to describe it is that you spent ages learning to drive and you feel ready so you book your driving test for six months time and don't get in the car to practice and then turn up on the day and hope you can remember it all.

Over the month leading up to seeing my first client, the nerves would sometimes get to me and at other times I felt ready. I had an essay to do right up until a few days before I saw my client so to some extent buried my head. Once the essay was done I then set myself the task of creating a few handouts and clinic support sheets which made me feel a bit better as I at least knew I had almost anything I might need in the room with me.

I felt reasonably calm during the few days before the clinic which surprised me as I assumed I would be getting a bit worked up about it. I did have a few weird dreams so I knew my brain was trying to process a few things. I felt even calmer the morning of the clinic which amazed me, my body felt good, I was prepared as I could really be and I felt the part in my outfit.

I did not get nervous until about 45 minutes before my clinic when I headed to the car to eat lunch. I felt the countdown begin and the unknown of what was to come began to unsettle me. But I tried to say calm, enjoy my food and take deep breaths. Then the heavens opened and an incredible amount of rain came down beginning to flood the carpark and I kept waiting expecting it to go off so I could grab my things and get inside. However, it decided to chuck some hailstones into the mix and while it was so bad you had to laugh it didn't help my stress levels. I had to just run for it in the end and luckily had some spare clothes with me to swap into to make the journey from the car to the building.

This image above is how it felt :D

I quickly got changed and began to sort all my paperwork out, there was so much of it! Next time I am going to get into the room sooner so I can calmly sort all the paperwork out and get the room laid out how I wanted. I was almost sorted but time was running on and then my client and my colleagues in the room were all late, again this increased my stress levels and I knew at this point I was beginning to panic. Hopefully next time I can get myself prepared in advance and take some time in the room to take some deep breaths before I begin.

However, I began in what felt like a bit of a whirlwind and really struggled to keep my stress levels in check. I had assumed that once I began I would calm down due to being so caught up in the questions and paperwork, but unfortunately, the stress levels kept rising and I was struggling to think straight. Plus I was told before I started that I was being live-streamed to the classroom next door so now had a whole lot of eyes on me. At one point for about 30 seconds my stress levels were so high I was thinking I would need to leave the room due to a panic attack but I managed to take it second by second and was able to at least stay in the room. While this extreme anxiety did reduce the levels of adrenaline going through my body were incredibly high for the first 40 minutes. They began to go down once I knew I was on the home straight of the first hours worth of paperwork.

It did shock me that my stress levels were as high as they were for so long as most students feedback was it was scary for about five minutes but once their head was in the paperwork they forgot about the other students in the room and the camera. This didn't work for me this time but I certainly hope that this will be what it feels like by the end of the year.

I was very pleased with the questions that I can up with seeing as my brain was very busy freaking out. One thing that I hope will get easier is writing as its feel like you are writing too slowly when everyone is watching you and waiting for the next question. Every second felt like a minute and it made it hard to write everything down that I wanted to (although looking back through my notes I got more down than it felt).

The client then left and I could turn off the microphone, but my adrenaline was so high and I could see my time counting down so there was no time to take a breath. I then rushed as fast as I could to fill in the paperwork and create a plan. I was so pleased that I had my homemade step by step guide with me to refer to as my mind was racing all over the place and it was quite hard to get myself to follow the paperwork in order. But I was pretty pleased with it all so was ready to invite the client back in.

The feedback was a little bit easier as I knew I didn't have that much longer to go before I could catch my breath, plus I felt confident about explaining the ideas that I was recommending. It would have been hard to fill the required time if it had not been for the fact that my lovely client asked lots of questions. This is something a lot of us are worried about as you can fail for being under or overtime and getting it right is really tricky and slightly based on the luck of the client asking questions.

I felt emotionally all over the place once I had finished and it took me an hour to feel normal again. But one thing that completely amazed me was that no one noticed at all that I was struggling with my anxiety. Everyone said I was a natural and congratulated me which felt great but really weird as it was not what I thought I had experienced. While I cannot get over the fact no one noticed I was extremely anxious it was great to know that I can give a client a high-quality appointment even when a large part of my headspace is elsewhere.

I now know that the main thing I need to work on in order to support my clients is my confidence in the room, being ok with public speaking and learning to relax even when things feel very uncomfortable.

Looking back I would not change the plan I gave the client meaning even under pressure I was able to provide the client with something really useful to go away with. I look forward to seeing how the client gets on and what changes worked well and which ones did not. Fingers crossed next time though I can begin to relax into it and start to enjoy taking the case as I do when I am not put under the pressure of the assessed appointment.

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