American Academy of Nurse Entrepreneurs

What it Takes to Incorporate Functional Medicine in Your Practice

As a nurse, you’ve likely seen the limitations of conventional/allopathic medicine – doctors medicating symptoms instead of treating root causes. It’s heartbreaking to see a patient return over and over again for any chronic problems, and it’s even more heartbreaking when you know they shouldn’t have to.
The human body is a complex network of interconnected systems, and functional (aka integrated) medicine treats the body (and its ailments) as such. Sadly, most practices aren’t even set up to embrace an integrative healthcare philosophy.
For example…
When I was working in a doctor’s office, there was a 16 year old boy who had a skin condition. The doctor kept treating the issue with a typical steroid. The teenager was miserable, not just because of the physical pain from the skin condition, but also psychological pain. Kids can be cruel to anyone who looks different. And all the doctor did was prescribe stronger and stronger steroids. That’s the conventional approach.
A practitioner of functional medicine would say to themselves, “Hmm. The skin is a detoxifying organ. The GI system also detoxifies. So, maybe something is going on in the GI tract that has some effect on the skin.” You can still give the kid the topical steroid while you explore what could be causing the problem – collecting stool samples to see if there’s an infection in the gut, or perhaps there’s a food sensitivity.
Allopathic medicine accepts perpetual diseased state as normal. Functional medicine practitioners, like myself, don’t accept that. I’ve seen too many problems reversed and cured that never would have happened if someone just threw drugs at the problem.
As a current or soon-to-be nurse owner who believes in the functional medicine approach, you need to lead the way in how your practice is run so that you can serve your patients holistically.

Benefits of Functional Medicine for Both Nurses and Patients

When you see patients actually HEAL through an integrative method, I don’t know how you practice any other way. Symptoms don’t diminish; they disappear.
It’s interesting (and kind of unfortunate) that doctors who practice functional medicine are labeled as specialists in our healthcare system – which has its own pricing and insurance implications – even though functional medicine is the definition of primary care.
And as a nurse owner, you can build a primary care practice that takes a functional approach without the bureaucratic limitations of being a specialist.
Not only is it better for your patients (because they can actually heal), but it’s more fulfilling to be a part of that transformation. This is why we got into healthcare in the first place.

How to Get Started with Functional Medicine in Your Own Practice

If you want to incorporate functional medicine in your practice, the first fear or worry you might have is, “Oh no. I’d have to get a bunch of extra education and get an IFM certification.” No, not at all. Yes, you could do those things and it could be beneficial. But, more than anything, it’s about thinking differently and breaking the mold of centuries old approaches.
And also, it means breaking the mold on some more recent bad habits in the industry….like 15 minute appointments.

No More 15-Minute Appointments

To be a successful functional medicine practitioner, you have to TALK with your patients. Get to know them and learn about their lives. That means scheduling appointments that are longer than 15-minutes.
Within UltraPersonal Healthcare appointments are scheduled for an hour. Sometimes the patient uses the whole hour, sometimes not. But the time is there if we need it.

Have a Foundation of Patient Communication SOPs

Make sure you’re clear with your team about how to:
  • explore issues with patients
  • chart and keep thorough notes
  • keep your team in the loop in staff meetings and chat channels
  • check in with patients outside of appointments
If you need a springboard for any of these, you might check out our customizable templates within the American Academy of Nurse Entrepreneurs – specifically, the Employee Handbook, Administrative Policies & Procedures, or the Culture Bible.

Build a Strong Referral Network

Having a referral network is important for any practice. But it’s especially important for a functional medicine practice. I share more about who to bring into your referral network in this social post (ig and fb), but essentially you need to stay connected with providers and specialists that can support your functional medicine approach.
For example, a patient who has high blood pressure and is overweight could have many contributing factors. Sure, there’s the likely diet and metabolic disfunction. But there’s also sleep to be considered – especially if they have sleep apnea. Plus, there’s the emotional element that could be underlying it all. And if any of those don’t get addressed, things will likely get worse and more difficult for the patient over time. Consulting with a sleep specialist or referring therapists could help the patient unlock what they need to improve their quality of life.
You should always have a list of trusted providers at your fingertips – from dermatologists to cardiologists to breath work specialists and therapists, and everything in between.
I also recommend that you socialize or simply have conversations with your referral network as often as possible. A functional medicine practitioner shouldn’t silo themselves. By interacting with your referral network, you’d be surprised at how cross-pollinating expertise and experiences can help you see missing puzzle pieces.
And if you’re interested in exploring this topic further, you might want to check out our masterclasses on:
And, as always, if you want to be a part of an active community of like-minded nurse owners, membership (and all it’s benefits) within the American Academy of Nurse Entrepreneurs is here to support you and provide continued education and resources.

Veronica Pike

FNP-C President & Co-Founder
Veronica co-founded Med2You, a healthcare company based in Austin, Texas that provides primary and psychiatric care to underserved populations with a completely remote care team led by nurse practitioners.

Veronica started her business as a single provider with a mobile “doctor bag,” cellphone and a laptop.

As a family nurse practitioner and entrepreneur who has operated her own practice since 2013, Veronica knows the unique challenges and needs APNs have when navigating the business, legal and regulatory components of starting and operating a thriving healthcare practice.

Now, her mission is to put this knowledge in the hands of other advanced practice nurses so that they can realize their full potential as clinicians, entrepreneurs and leaders in their community.

With her business partner, Griffin Mulcahey, a healthcare regulatory attorney, Veronica has designed the educational programs, resources, and community support network that is the American Academy of Nurse Entrepreneurs (AANE).

Veronica is also a sought-after speaker around the country. She speaks to healthcare entrepreneurs, clinicians, hospitals, and associations – proudly educating and helping the growing community of healthcare entrepreneurs who are giving more options and better care to communities around the country.

Practicing Patient Autonomy Within Your Practice

Patient autonomy has become a buzzword in our industry and it tends to be discussed like a philosophy, but rarely in terms of actual patient interaction. So, today I'd like to share some insights about patient autonomy and how you can approach it in your practice.

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