Five Ways to Jump-Start Your Career in Integrative and Functional Medicine with Confidence

Lisa McDonald 10/28/2019 How to Find a Job, Recent News, Job Seekers

Career in Integrative and Functional Medicine

Since I began recruiting in the Integrative and Functional Medicine field more than ten years ago, I’ve seen candidates come and go. Some succeed in finding and flourishing within their ideal personalized medicine career, and some don’t. From these experiences, I’ve noticed one factor in particular that lends itself to a successful career in Integrative and Functional Medicine – confidence. 

One of my regular takeaways from the conferences that I attend is the large number of practitioners who are curious about available jobs in the field but aren’t actually ready to start practicing. When I ask them why, they explain that they need to work with a mentor first. Not only do they not apply for the jobs they truly want because they don’t feel adequately prepared without certification or mentorship, but they’re also hesitant to share what they’re learning within their conventional practice, because their peers see it as nothing more than “voodoo” medicine. 

As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, you don’t necessarily need to be certified to find a job in the Integrative and Functional Medicine field. Instead, what I’m sensing is a lack of confidence. I do understand the hesitation, given the complexities of the medical issues that present themselves in this field, and the ever-increasing amount of information to learn on prevention and managing chronic illnesses. But in order to revolutionize healthcare, we need everyone on board, now. If you’ve committed to getting an education in the field, then you should be committed to practicing and sharing what you learn. How else can we transform the current healthcare system without putting into practice what you’re learning now? 

“How else can we transform the current healthcare system, without putting into practice what you’re learning now?” 

Those of you looking for a career in Integrative and Functional Medicine are leaders in the transformation of our healthcare system from a disease-management system to a health-promotion system. This is important work and work that you can begin now. You don’t have to wait to complete an education program in Integrative and Functional Medicine to start bringing the value of this movement to your patients. Although I do believe you should have the intent to finish a program.  

I’ve spoken to many candidates who were able to start using their training immediately, even in a conventional setting. Once empowered with life-changing information about Functional Medicine, it’s possible to play a significant role in transforming health – right in your own backyard. I’ve seen primary care providers and specialists bring the benefits of Functional Medicine to conventional medicine in brilliant ways. You can read about some of those examples here

Here are five more ways to increase your confidence and jump-start your career in Integrative and Functional Medicine, starting today.

  1. Stay Connected After the Conference

It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re passionate about something that isn’t mainstream, especially when peers may not fully understand this field. Taking the leap to practice Integrative and Functional Medicine requires the interconnectedness of a tribe to fully grow and prosper in the field. As a practitioner in this field, you are a leader in the transformation of the current healthcare system, and as a result, you need to feel connected to a community. Breaking the destructive barriers of our healthcare system and going outside not only your comfort zone, but also society’s comfort zone requires the strength of a community. I cannot overstress the importance of being around like-minded people. Conferences are an excellent place to do this. The energy found at conferences is valuable and enables you to walk away with beneficial experiences and incredible information that will transform your patients’ health and your own. But you can get even more than medical education. Attending large gatherings with like-minded individuals with shared goals results in opportunities to form new relationships and exchange key learnings. You have the opportunity to pick the brains of experts in the field and possibly even find a mentor or collaborator. 

However, it is vital that you maintain the connectedness when you return to your regular life and job. Some strategies for doing this include:

  • Functional Forum Meetups through Evolution of Medicine are available internationally. You can search for a meetup in your area here: https://meetup.functionalforum.com.
  • When you meet peers at the conference, get their contact information and make an effort to reach out. The conference mobile app, social media, or email are all excellent ways to do this. Send a quick note to say hello and ask to meet up at a break or lunch. You can join in or initiate a conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag for the conference.
  1. Join Support Groups

There are communities designed to help build your skillset when it comes to practicing Integrative and Functional Medicine. Here are a few: 

  • The Institute for Functional MedicineIFM offers a peer-to-peer Functional Medicine Mentorship Program that provides an opportunity for clinicians who have attended programs in IFM’s certification path to enhance their clinical competence by working with an experienced Functional Medicine mentor in group cohort sessions.
  • The University of Arizona Center for Integrative MedicineOnce enrolled in one of their educational programs, you can participate in a community hub for their learners and alumni, in addition to an alumni and associates site that provides a wide range of support, including forums/online discussions, and ongoing educational opportunities.
  • IFM Facebook Group – This is where Functional Medicine clinicians who have taken advanced IFM coursework can share their knowledge, collaborate with one another, and create community. They also maintain an Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP) group, Advanced Practice Modules (APM) specific groups that are open for about 6 weeks at a time, and a certification group for each IFMCP exam cohort.
  1. Share What You Learn

Integrative and Functional Medicine is not voodoo medicine. Traditional medical techniques such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, ayurvedic care, and naturopathy have been referred to by skeptics as woo-woo medicine – a derogatory term for healing therapies that have been in practice for thousands of years. However, anyone who has ever been touched by the therapeutic benefits of a traditional healing therapy knows they are not nonsense or quackery. Reports and studies of their efficacy and acceptance are increasingly growing. Not only that, but their benefits are life-changing and their proof is supported by the growing number of people experiencing these benefits, as well as the increasing number of reputable institutions that are researching, practicing, and teaching about them. 

The best way to get rid of the stigma of quackery is to stand confident – this is evidence-based medicine. The more you share and put your knowledge into practice, the stronger the movement, and the more you build your own confidence. The proof is in the outcomes. Therefore, it’s important to share the outcomes you’ve experienced or have learned from research. 

Prestigious institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic for Functional Medicine, which has brought the ideals of Functional Medicine to the forefront, are excellent resources to share from. Cleveland Clinic researchers recently published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open with evidence that functional medicine is associated with improvements in health-related quality of life.

The acceptance of traditional healing therapies is seen at some of the most respected medical centers in the nation that have established Integrative medical center, (e.g., Scripps, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, and Duke University Medical Center). Some of the services listed at these centers are acupuncture, yoga, Healing Touch, Qigong, meditation, massage therapy, Reiki and herbal medicine. In addition, there are 70 highly esteemed academic medical centers and health systems that have Integrative Medicine programs, as outlined here

Participating in the revolution of health care requires you to be ready to explain your conviction and practice your elevator pitch. It’s not easy to explain what I do in this unique field of medicine, but I look forward to it, because I see it as an opportunity to share this movement of hope with others. I have my elevator pitch ready at all times. “I recruit in a specialized field of medicine that is transforming healthcare by allowing practitioners more time with patients and providing cutting-edge resources to address the root cause of an illness and the whole person, rather than just the symptoms. It’s personalized medicine with a patient-centered approach, called Integrative and Functional Medicine.” After my pitch, I’m always asked for more information, and it sparks engaging conversation. I plant the seed and typically end up providing a directory of practitioners in the field or a website where they can get more information. 

  1. Showcase Your Education in the Field

Every time you complete a course in the field, add it to your CV, the template you use for all jobs. Many candidates tell me they keep two different CVs: one with their education in the field, and one without it for conventional jobs. And all too often, they send me the wrong CV, as mentioned in a previous blog post here. I encourage you to keep your education in the field on all CVs. You should customize a CV for each job you are applying for, but that doesn’t mean leaving out the education that shows you have taken the initiative to learn more about how to provide personalized medicine that will make you a better practitioner for all patients. 

It is imperative that you include all of this information when communicating about a potential job in Functional Medicine. It takes significant time, energy, money, and dedication to complete these courses, and it provides candidates with more expertise in the field. These are all things that potential employers need to know about when making hiring decisions. If it turns out that you’re neck in neck with another candidate, it is this sort of initiative and dedication that may set you apart from the competition and edge you out over the others.

I also suggest adding any education in your field to your LinkedIn profile as well. I can’t stress enough how important your digital presence is, in addition to your traditional CV. In this day and age, through the use of social media, employment, and a number of other platforms, we can easily be found through an Internet search. So it’s important to ensure that your online presence is accurate, up-to-date, and comprehensive, and that it builds credibility. 

  1. Tune in and Keep up with Medical Podcasts 

Medical podcasts are a great way to stay engaged in this emerging field and keep on top of the latest research. Not only that, but they also allow for flexibility, do not cost a thing, and are so convenient. You can listen while commuting, walking, making dinner, or folding laundry. A number of your patients may already be listening to these podcasts, or maybe it’s a podcast you want to share with them or peers in your forum/meetup. The following are podcasts I hear about regularly in my interviews:

These are my main takeaways when it comes to jump-starting your career in Integrative and Functional Medicine with confidence. By keeping these things in mind, you can make sure that you’re among the candidates that succeed within the Functional Medicine movement.

At Integrated Connections. we provide unparalleled service because of our depth of knowledge of the Integrative, Functional, and Lifestyle Medicine field. Our strength lies in utilizing this knowledge and our connections within this realm. We’re the leading-edge healthcare staffing firm that specializes exclusively in Functional Medicine career placements. We connect the right people to the right jobs. Learn more at www.integratedconnects.com.