As a recruiter in the field of Integrative and Functional Medicine, I’m fortunate to regularly speak with providers in the field and hear their stories.
In addition to hiring interviews, I speak with many practitioners at conferences. At a previous AFMCP conference – offered by the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) – I spoke with a few practitioners who were eager to practice Functional Medicine, but were frustrated that there weren’t opportunities in their geographical area yet.
There doesn’t need to be any frustration. Just start with where you are.
Once empowered with life-changing information about Functional Medicine, it’s possible to play a significant role in transforming health – right where you are.
I’ve seen primary care providers and specialists bring the benefits of Functional Medicine to conventional medicine in brilliant ways.
In obtaining a professional reference for a candidate trained in Functional Medicine, I asked the hospital administrator in what setting she thought the surgeon would work best and she replied, “in a setting he can treat the whole person”. Given that he was a surgeon, this response surprised me so I asked the administrator to elaborate.
“If a patient was referred to him for a procedure, he would not evaluate just the procedure, he would take into account everything. He would look at labs and address other things, like the thyroid. His focus was on the whole patient. He doesn’t just look at the presenting problem; he looks at the overall person. We were not familiar with or expect that here, but that was the way he practiced. We had no problem with it. The patients really liked him. He was our best surgical specialist.“
Not only did that surgeon provide invaluable care to his patients, but an entire health system became aware of the power of Functional Medicine and a whole-person approach.
The Physician Assistant
A physician assistant working in a conventional practice and seeing up to 24 patients a day, found impactful ways to bring Functional Medicine to his patients. Obviously he is limited in the time he has with patients – but he developed ways to get information into their hands so that they could begin their own healing process.
He took advantage of the information he obtained from IFM courses and created handouts for his patients. What he didn’t have time to tell them in person about nutrition and lifestyle he provided in documents for them to take home and delve into. The number of handouts he creates consistently increases, as does the patients’ interest.
He hasn’t promoted himself at all, but now has a growing list of patients waiting to see him. Patients are telling their friends and family about their great outcomes and Integrative Medicine practitioners are sending him referrals. He’s only been in practice 18 months.
Patients are eager for this information and seeking a better approach.
The other nine providers on staff refer to him regularly because they are also seeing the great outcomes from his knowledge in Functional Medicine. What a great impact this physician assistant is having in his community and practice because of his initiative and passion.
More Primary Care Examples
A family medicine physician utilizes his Functional Medicine training to provide wellness seminars at lunch for staff and in the evenings for patients.
A nurse practitioner developed a 6-week wellness program she offers in conjunction with a physician. They both completed a fellowship in Integrative Medicine. Their wellness program is always filled, just based upon word of mouth.
There is no better way than to lead by example. Being empowered with knowledge that is life-changing can have an impact no matter what situation you are in. One just has to be open to the possibilities and take the initiative.
An emergency physician who is on track for certification with the Institute for Functional Medicine started providing Functional Medicine consults when not working at the hospital. Those consults grew into a Functional Medicine part-time practice. This part-time practice is on track to become a thriving full-time practice. No marketing expenditures were needed.
The reality is: the moment you are in is just perfect and the only failure would be not to try, not to get educated, not to share this life-saving information. Start from where you are.
The job opportunities continue to grow in the field but you don’t have to wait for the right job in the right place. You can begin now, where you are. There are solutions.
The surgeon had an incredible impact in an unlikely environment. And ultimately an astonishing payoff. He later accepted a position practicing Functional Medicine at a new practice that opened up in his area.
All the providers who are getting education in Integrative and Functional Medicine are on the right track. Starting with the education gets you going. And anytime you take an opportunity to use your training to educate, you’re gaining valuable experience that a future employer will appreciate.
Patient demand for Integrative and Functional Medicine continues to grow. We need educated providers to respond to this demand.
Start where you are. Use your education. Do what you can.