Being part of a community is instinctual; we’ve seen it as far back as the days of the cavemen when survival depended upon it. But the need for a community isn’t just about physical survival. Connectedness and knowing we are not alone is a fundamental human need, as Abraham Maslow noted.
The Strength of the Integrative and Functional Medicine Community
Taking the leap to practice Integrative and Functional Medicine requires the interconnectedness of a community to fully grow and prosper in the field. And breaking the destructive barriers of our healthcare system requires the strength of a community. The community of Integrative and Functional Medicine is rooted deep in the shared value of providing patient-centered care that transforms health.
When I interview candidates, especially those who are new to the field, they often ask if I know where they can find this community support. Many feel isolated in a conventional setting and sometimes even shunned by peers.
Where Can You Find Your Community?
One resource I provide regularly is the Functional Forum, a Meetup for practitioners to connect locally and learn about the latest developments in the field.
Another resource I recommend is identifying Facebook Groups suited to the practitioner. Recently a Facebook Group for Functional and Integrative Medicine Physician Assistants/Nurse Practitioners caught my attention. This group has steady growth with increasing engagement. Members share information on where they get CME in the field, feedback from conferences, resources for supplements and diagnostic testing, and many have found practitioners in their local area to meet in person.
I reached out to the Group Administrator, Meg McElroy, MS, PA-C, to learn more about her success with this group. Before this Facebook Group Meg recognized the need to find a community in the field. She reached out to the PALEO f(x) conference in Austin, Texas so she could volunteer, experience the “behind-the-scenes” work involved in the event, and be around like-minded individuals. After being accepted as a volunteer, they vetted Meg and conference organizers asked her to be Speaker Support in the VIP room. Through this role Meg was able meet some of the leading figures in Integrative and Functional Medicine (i.e. Dr. David Perlmutter, Chris Kresser, and more). This experience and participating in the conference reinforced Meg’s understanding of how important it is to feel connected to others in the field.
In October of 2017 Meg was at the Detox Module with The Institute for Functional Medicine conference and on the last day of the conference she was chatting with other providers about the need for PA/NP’s to connect in the field. At that moment she created the Facebook Group and her first members signed up on-the-spot. Meg stated, “Functional Medicine is relation based medicine, it makes sense to build relationships with your colleagues as well.”
Meg accepts NP/PA’s with a passion to practice in the field, as well as students, because she believes that students are where the change is going to happen. There is no outreach or marketing to grow the group, yet it averages 10 new members per week with 450 members participating now.
Meg stated, “My goal for the group is to show NP/PA’s out there that they’re not alone. To share in the wins and the struggles of being a provider in the field. There can be struggles, but we see miracles all the time. “
In addition to Meetups and Facebook Groups, conferences can be a great way to connect with practitioners in the field… IF you make the effort. I know some of us cringe when we hear the word “networking”, but the truth is you have to make the effort to grow connections.
Initiate conversations at your table, use the conference apps to find practitioners who live in your area, ask attendees if they want to meet up at a break or lunch.
Why Finding a Community is Critical to Success
Practicing in this field is no small undertaking. You are embarking on a journey to create a major change in our world. Some of the most transformative shifts in our country broke through the conventional barriers from the collective action of people working towards a common goal, without any initiation from the government, i.e. women’s suffrage and the abolishment of slavery,
An Integrative/Functional Medicine practitioner is often the last resort for a patient. These patients typically present with complex health issues that can be difficult to solve. Playing the medical detective alone can be daunting if you’re not part of a community that offers support, resources, guidance and a sense of belonging.
The Integrative and Functional Medicine collective action is the catalyst for the movement towards patient-centered care. Let’s keep our community growing.
How have you found a community?