As a fifth year student beginning to prepare for clinical practice on qualification, I thought I would share some words on my last module – Experiential Learning in Nutritional Therapeutics. This was an ideal opportunity not only to start looking at building my business portfolio, but also an opportunity to reflect on my experience of seeking out collaborative opportunities in order to create an effective network of potential clients. There is often a gap between theoretical knowledge and its application in practice and by engaging with a specific group of people in a like-minded community, helped me to understand their motivation and create marketing activities for a later date. For this exercise, I chose to work with a local fitness company to explore ways in which I could introduce nutritional elements to their client base and through this experience, I have begun to understand the importance of networking, which will be my biggest asset in building my reputation. Reflecting on my learning and showing how learning cycles can be applied in a work based setting highlighted how the continuous cycle of experience and reflection provides the opportunity to identify new knowledge, thus contributing to developing my brand.
As a self-directed piece of work, understanding my motivation and barriers to learning were key in driving me forward. My initial feelings of apprehension towards the reflective element which questioned my self – belief and confidence, related to those I felt when first introduced to reflective practice. Reflection can be daunting and resisting the process, I had difficulty in the initial development, which was both frustrating and delayed progress. Reflecting on reasons of why I had chosen this particular local business to work with proved valuable in helping me to move forward. Engagement with peers, some who were feeling the same, and with my tutor, helped me through a challenging time. Research suggests that experiential learning is mostly effective when we involve others in the sharing of ideas. The placement, although enabling learning through a real environment, overwhelmed me. However, curious to seek an opportunity within a safe environment to build on my current knowledge, I was challenged to explore further. In hindsight, capturing thoughts with post-it notes and journaling which prompted reflection and learning and reminding me of my overall thoughts was beneficial. Going forward, to reap the benefits of reflection, it is important for me to have a positive attitude towards the outcomes of reflection.
Having this opportunity to continue bridging the gap between theory and practice and by critically appraising my experience via practice enabled me to improve by using the information and knowledge gained to review my portfolio of skills and identify my learning needs. When considering personal skills, there is evidence of the improvements that these skills can make in clinical health outcomes. As I reflect on my own communication skills during this project, I believe a positive outcome had been achieved through effective communication at every stage from creating a good first impression through to building a professional relationship.
Exploring new dimensions of my professional role led me through a personal and professional journey, evolving through stages of doing, being and knowing. In doing this, I questioned my self-belief as I was reminded that at the end of my studies I will be experiencing total and independent responsibility for the first time, separate from being a NT in training which stirred up feelings of self-doubt. My general confidence was high, but with a lack of belief in my ability to perform well on the new task, I questioned why an established brand would want to work with me, how I would be perceived, did I feel comfortable about selling my services, would I be any good at networking and using the time effectively to achieve what I wanted to achieve? However, by focusing on my effort, being persistent and by changing my approach resulted in a shift as I turned my embarrassed fear of “selling myself” into a more confident “I’m growing my practice and looking for a network of colleagues”. On reflection, I realised that I am a people person and networking, although a skill that comes naturally to me, is one that I would like to enhance to build awareness, get found and generate opportunities. To conclude, I reflect on how this experience has increased my self – awareness, providing me with a better understanding of my emotions and actions. By feeling my way through a process, identifying my current skills and applying existing knowledge, I found the confidence to banish self-doubt and demonstrated how I can create opportunities for myself. Building on this positive experience, within a safe environment, I am now curious about identifying and exploring other networking approaches and feel excited about seeking new networking opportunities.
Written by: Kalpana Ratcliffe – Final Year Nutritional Therapy Student