Jo Gamble is one of the UKs most successful functional medicine practitioners. She runs her own busy clinic in Coventry, is a much sought-after mentor for fellow practitioners and regularly lectures throughout the UK; bringing functional medicine to life with her extensive clinical experience. On Saturday 15th June, Jo featured alongside the father of functional medicine, Dr Jeffrey Bland at Nutri Advanced’s flagship functional medicine event The Science of Health.
We met up with Jo recently, to chat about her typical work day, how she manages to fit so much into her day whilst also prioritising time for family and self-care, who inspires her and what advice she would give to newly qualified practitioners.
In her characteristic kind and selfless manner, Jo’s answers are absolutely packed with clinical pearls and gems of wisdom. Whatever Jo has learnt or finds challenging; she is happy to share so that others can benefit from her experience. Over many years, she has learnt how to build a busy clinic and provide the highest level of support for her clients whilst looking after herself and her family too.
Time to put the kettle on and be inspired by our conversation with Jo Gamble.
RB: Thanks so much for taking time out to chat to us Jo. We’re looking forward to finding out how you balance a busy clinic with home life and self-care, as this has become such a common 21st century challenge. Could you describe your typical start to a work day?
JG: As soon as I wake up I make a nettle tea to start my day. I’m definitely an early bird and my brain works at its best in the morning so my alarm is set for 5am. This is so I can do an hour and a half of work before I then become ‘mummy’ and help my daughter to prepare for her day.
During this early morning work time, I always do something that needs my best brain capacity because I know this is my optimum time. I avoid emails and anything social media related, because that doesn’t need my best brain capacity and those sort of activities can soak up hours. I often use this time to write up client plans from the day before, or to write educational materials.
“I often say, pick the one thing that needs your best brain and then pick your best brain time to do it”
This is individual for everyone, but for most adults the best brain time to be working is the morning.
RB: How do you prepare for the work day ahead?
JG: Between 6.30am – 7.30am we make and eat breakfast, prepare lunches and take the dogs out for a walk in the woods.
“I love walking the dogs in the morning as it is a perfect time to clear my head before work.”
We have largely a paleolithic-style diet and our household is completely gluten-free. Breakfast might be chia seed pudding, paleo-style granola or scrambled eggs on gluten-free paleo bread (I like The Artisan Bread Company for convenience or use the Against all Grain cookbook by Danielle Walker to make my own). Eggs are a favourite, fast-food, quick-fix in our house.
Lunch is always homemade and would either be leftovers from the night before or a salad which will always include broccoli sprouts and some form of fermented vegetable such as sauerkraut plus other ingredients such as avocado, leafy greens, cucumber, tomato and houmous. My daughter takes salads to school too, which makes life easier as it’s not different lunches for everyone.
I also make a pot of organic black coffee in the morning - I have a cup after my breakfast and then take a cup to work with me in a flask which I enjoy throughout the morning. We leave the house at 7.30am for the school run.
RB: Can you describe your typical day in clinic?
JG: I arrive at my clinic at 8am and never put anything in my diary before 8.15 – 8.30am. I use this first 15 – 30 minutes to mentally prepare myself for the day ahead using mindfulness and meditation.
“This time is really important for me; it’s how I mentally switch from home life to clinic life - I make a transition and find I am then ready for the day.”
My morning clinic session typically runs from 8.30am – 12.30pm / 1pm and I often have clients booked back-to-back which might include some one-to-one mentoring sessions. I schedule in a 30 min lunch break and another 30 min break to write up as many of the morning notes as I can. I give myself 10 minutes to write up each client’s notes and that includes ordering labs, writing doctor’s letters and client plans.
My afternoon clinic session starts around 1.30pm; some days I finish at 4.30pm, and others I may work until 7pm, depending on home commitments. I write client notes up from the afternoon session in my next early morning slot.
RB: Do you have any tips on how other practitioners can streamline their clinical work to become more efficient and ultimately help more people?
JG: The first thing I would say is that I think a lot of practitioners overwhelm clients with too many notes. It’s important to remember that you can only make so many positive changes at any one time. I would much rather give the client 5 x nutritional goals and 2 x lifestyle goals, and make it achievable, rather than writing 7 pages. And I think that’s where a lot of practitioners go wrong; they feel they need to deliver all of their knowledge in one go.
“What I say to practitioners is, remember that you’re taking your clients on a journey, and your journey doesn’t have to hit the destination in one go. The journey is step-by-step to make positive, achievable, realistic goals.”
I also think it’s important that I agree with the client what the aims of the plan are going to be, and I only write recommendations to meet those aims; rather than trying to do everything. For example, if the goal is to support bowel elimination, my dietary recommendations would be around fibre and water; and my lifestyle recommendations might be around exercise – for movement to support peristalsis, and my supplements again would be to support this aim, so that at the end of that plan, that first goal has been successful. And then I move on to another goal, and I will only work on 2 – 3 goals at any one time. So, if I’m not focusing on reducing inflammation, I won’t be asking my client to increase oily fish, because it’s not meeting my aims.
“I think where people often go wrong is that they try to put out a bush fire with a water pistol; shooting the fire lots but never really making any impact.”
The practitioner feels disheartened; the client isn’t able to reach the goals because they were too big and too vast, and then the relationship breaks down. Whereas I believe if the goals are small, measurable, achievable, realistic and in a time frame – really SMART goals – then we are all happy, because the client can achieve the goals and comes back to the follow up asking, “right, what’s next?”
So then I’ll deliver 3 x more aims; and very often at the first follow up these aims will be based on my lab reports because I will always lab test which also really helps to motivate the clients to take action.
RB: How do you incorporate self-care into your day/ week?
“My mantra is you have to be selfish in order to be selfless”
JG: I have regular weekly slots scheduled in where the focus is just about self-care, for example, I have a weekly massage and I don’t start work till 11am on a Thursday so I can take the dogs for a longer walk and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. I also make sure I have plenty of family time scheduled in my week.
RB: What does your typical evening look like on a work day?
JG: All of our meals are cooked from scratch so my evening time usually starts with meal prep. During the week we try to make sure we’re making meals that only require 20 mins of prep so we’re not cooking for hours after work. We also use the slow cooker a lot, particularly on late working days or if we have activities on in the evening, so that dinner is ready when we arrive home. After dinner, evenings might include after-school activities, a dog walk, taking a bath, or at this time of the year sitting in the garden.
“I’m always in bed by 10pm. My brain doesn’t work as well in the evening so I’d rather get to bed early so I can wake early.”
RB: With such a busy schedule what is the key to your success at managing this?
“Organisation and chunking are absolutely crucial to my work”
JG: I chunk everything. For example, my emails I answer in chunks of 10, rather than looking at my inbox and feeling overwhelmed, I might say to myself, I’ll do one or two chunks (so 10 or 20 emails) and that way I feel I’ve been successful, rather than having failed to answer them all.
From an organisation point of view, I schedule everything in and have a weekly to-do list.
For example, if I have a lecture to write, I will block time out of my client-facing diary to write it. I do this on a weekly basis, rather than a daily basis because I don’t like to set myself up to fail; if I have a list of 20 things to do in a day, it’s probably not achievable, but if I list them over a week then it’s doable.
Organisation is also key to success for eating well at home. Our food is all delivered from Ocado or Abel & Cole, and we have an organic meat delivery too. And that becomes a running schedule; I do that on my phone, so it’s easy.
I have found strategies to keep me organised at home and at work. I always ask myself the question,
“how is my time best used?”
So I order all of my food shopping online and I can then use the time saved for a nice dog walk in the woods instead of going round the supermarket on a Saturday; which for me, is a better use of my time.
Down-time at the weekend always involves the dogs! My ideal time is to go and spend time in the woods with the dogs at the weekend.
RB: Is there anything that you find particularly challenging?
JG: I would say the emotional side of my work can be a challenge, especially working on supporting individuals who have cancer. I have to constantly focus on me being supported so that I can support others. I have a supervisor who helps me to stay strong and heard, so that I can help other people.
In fact, this is something I feel strongly about; in other healthcare disciplines such as in counselling for example, it is a pre-requisite to have regular supervision, but not something that nutritional therapists are required to do, but I think everyone should, and it’s incredibly valuable to help you to be a better practitioner. I think it’s important generally, for every practitioner, but particularly in my specialism, I think it’s hugely important.
And since I am a very busy working mum, it’s also hugely important for me to be there, physically and emotionally, to support my daughter.
“For me, it’s about keeping sight of what’s important; keeping that balance between being a busy, successful working mum and always being a good mum too.”
RB: Who do you particularly admire / find inspiring?
JG: First I have to say Dr Jeffrey Bland because he was the first person that inspired me to believe that there was a practice of delivering a modality outside of conventional medicine that really made a difference.
And I also want to add my daughter; as my mentor, because emotionally, life’s thrown some difficult and challenging things her way and she’s always found a way to overcome them.
“I think well if she can do that, that inspires and empowers me to make a difference to other people.”
RB: What advice would you give to a newly qualified nutritional therapist?
JG: First of all, I’d say get out there and get your voice heard so people know that you exist. You can’t build a client base sat inside a closed room.
And secondly, don’t be afraid. For too many people, fear becomes a boundary that they never get over, so it’s important not to be afraid and to have confidence in what you know, and also to have the understanding that you don’t have to know everything to be a good practitioner.
“You will never stop learning; it’s a profession where you will never stop learning; and the day you stop learning is the day you need to retire. You always need to keep learning; but you don’t need to know everything to be a good practitioner.”
To help overcome the fear factor; firstly, stay connected with your peers and companies. And plug in to the education that is available to enable you to develop yourself. And secondly, find yourself a mentor, for many people this is an invaluable part of the journey to becoming a successful practitioner. I think we all need mentors at every stage of our journey.
Thank you Jo for sharing so many insights with us; it’s been a privilege to talk to you, thank you.
Jo Gamble BA (HONS) DIP CNM AFMCP FELLOW ICT chaired The Science of Health, both presenting a lecture herself and hosting the panel discussion. As a nutritional and behavioural therapist, Jo became the first UK Functional Medicine Practitioner by graduating from the prestigious Institute for Functional Medicine in 2013. She furthered her career with a fellowship in Integrative Cancer from the American Board of Anti-Aging Practitioners.
Jo runs a busy private clinic in Coventry where she specializes in complex cases, digging deep into her client’s symptoms to both identify and treat the underlying root causes of chronic disease. Alongside clinical work, Jo inspires students to embark on a fulfilling career by lecturing in Nutrition at the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM). She works closely with Nutri Advanced by regularly presenting webinars and hosting intensive protocols such as the Gut Transformation Programme.
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