It may seem crazy to try to build a business during a global pandemic, but for Jamie Mok, MS, RDN, RYT, it didn’t seem that crazy at all. With almost ten years of experience in an acute care setting, she was ready to make the leap into private practice.
She’s been running her dietetics practice and yoga studio, The Yogini RD, online since early 2020. And that’s exactly how she intended it to be—100% virtual. She’s using all the benefits technology has to offer to reach the most people and provide the best level of care. We virtually interviewed Jamie to learn how she was able to start her own private practice in the midst of uncertainty.
This is Jamie’s story in her own words—
Transitioning from Inpatient to Outpatient Care
The majority of my work experience has been in an acute clinical setting. For nine years now, I’ve been at Long Beach Medical Center, which is a large tertiary-care medical center. I’ve worked with patients dealing with everything from GI issues, cancer, to cardiovascular diseases. And in the hospital, I worked a lot with diabetic patients. But more recently, I’ve worked remotely with COVID patients who’ve lost their appetite and are dealing with malnutrition.
I’ve moved from inpatient care to doing a lot of outpatient care, so I actually get to spend more than 15 or 30 minutes with a patient who’s been admitted to the hospital. In outpatient care, I get to spend an hour with clients when they’re no longer in the hospital—when they’re more stable and ready to learn.
Since I started doing more outpatient care, I’ve realized that my career goals align with making a greater impact on someone that’s ready to learn. The inpatient setting can be a hit or miss. As a patient, you’re sick and not feeling well. Whatever medications you’re on may be bothering you—you just might not be in the right place to learn.
Some people are. They’re like “This is wonderful. I’ve never sat with a dietitian. I’m so excited.” Because they may not have had access to that kind of 1×1 care before, especially in a hospital setting. I really enjoy taking the time to talk to my clients and understand their relationships with food, and how I can help them in a meaningful way.
Taking the Leap to Entrepreneurship
My experience with outpatient care motivated me to open a private practice, but I always knew that I wanted to start my own business. My journey to opening my own practice was probably on the slower end. I was working a full-time job, and I wasn’t really in the place to be able to take that big of a risk and leave my job.
In hindsight, was I ready to open a practice five years into my career as a clinical dietitian? I probably had the skill set, but it was more a lack of confidence. Could I have started earlier? Sure, but I know myself. There were so many other factors besides just my confidence level. I had to ask myself, “What’s the risk of not having the stability of my job, and am I able to take that risk on my own?” And the answer was no. I wasn’t there yet.
I ended up going part-time a year ago because I realized that my business just wasn’t going to build itself. Before going part-time, I just didn’t have the bandwidth to commit the time and energy to figure it out myself. That was a big lesson for me.
Building My Private Practice from Scratch
I have been taking clients on a referral basis since January 2020. But I delayed my official social media launch to the greater public until July 2020 because of the initial chaos from the pandemic. You would think that it would be risky for any business to open up during a pandemic, but I didn’t really feel that way with my practice.
In reality, I’ve been building this practice since 2018. Since then, I’ve been creating my brand, designing the website, getting on SimplePractice, learning about the workflow and process of seeing clients, and just seeing what my practice would look like on a day-to-day basis. I was studying and learning about running a private practice before even taking a client.
It made sense to me—as a new business and new practitioner in Los Angeles—that I wouldn’t bother having the overhead of commercial space. Plus, the world is mostly digital now, and clients need to be able to connect with their service providers from anywhere.
If someday I have enough resources to have a space, then sure. But my intention was always to run a virtual practice. When I launched at the beginning of this year and then everything shifted to be virtual in March, it felt very normal. I felt like I was prepared to do it because I was already doing it.
Combating Nutrition and Dietetic Stereotypes
In nutrition, there’s a lot of misconception about what a dietitian does. So much so, that it can be a barrier to providing effective care. A big part is that there’s so much misinformation out there.
And if you think about it, there are some general nutrition guidelines or recommendations that could apply to the majority of the public. But nutrition is so individualized. When individuals try to take these general recommendations and apply it to themselves, they don’t really work. Everyone approaches nutrition with different experiences and opinions. It can be really confusing if you don’t have someone to help you navigate that.
Another barrier is just the overall question of “What is a dietitian?” A lot of my initial clients would say “Oh, I had this meeting with you, but I had In-N-Out BurgerⓇ yesterday, so I had to tell you.” It’s like a confession. Already that tells me that they assume what I’m going to say, or that my response to that is going to be negative.
I have to break through some of these issues to gain their trust that there’s no judgement. I’m not a judge of your food choices. I’m here to help you understand your food choices, your body, and really get clear on what your health goals are, what your life goals are, and how we can align those. That’s my biggest passion—to help people navigate that conversation with themselves. I help them become more invested into making conscious choices about their food and their body.
Connecting Yoga and Nutrition
I discovered yoga midway through college just as a personal practice. It helped me get through some stressful times during my studies and life as a young adult navigating the beginning of my career. It was more of a personal journey for me. I never really intended to teach yoga, but I ended up doing teacher training, and it just kind of organically happened. I wanted to share my passion.
When I started teaching yoga, I was also practicing in an acute care setting for nutrition, and they felt connected to me. A lot of what I learned from practicing and teaching yoga—like listening to your body and mindfulness—informs my approach to nutrition and client education.
I’ve been teaching virtual yoga classes since March 2020. As a result, I’ve been able to virtually connect with so many people. A lot of people told me that they never really practiced yoga before, and this has shifted the way they work out.
Looking to the Future of Health and Wellness
It’s been incredible to see people adapt to current events. People no longer have those barriers of going to a brick-and-mortar yoga studio or dietitian’s office to get the care and guidance they need. My virtual practice eliminates all of that. And it has opened a whole new world for me as a brand-new private practitioner as well as for my new and existing patients.
Disclaimer: This piece was adapted from an interview.
Pollen Magazine examines the health and wellness industry through the lens of the professionals that are redefining private practice. Find inspiration, learn from others, and discover insights on how to build the best version of your practice.