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Functional Medicine Isn't for Everyone: Beyond the Quick Fix

Quite often, I will have someone say something similar to the following, "I wish I could get my mom to come see you. She has so much going on with her health, and she just won't listen to me. It's so frustrating!" In these situations, I'm generally left a little lost for what to say next. I doubt people really want to hear me ramble about how change is hard, and people need to be ready, but that is the bottom line- always. In order for functional medicine to work, people. need. to. be. ready.

When I talk about this topic with other nurses and nurse practitioners who incorporate functional medicine into their practice, I hear the same things- either they are experiencing challenges with getting patients to commit to change, or they are wishing for change for a loved one that isn't ready. In our professional lives, it may be that our practice is not focused on functional medicine.

My previous primary care practice was in a corporate, allopathic clinic. Most of my patients were seeking standard care, and only a handful seemed particularly receptive to a more holistic approach. As I was learning functional medicine and nurse coaching, I was feeling frustrated that it felt like none of my patients were ready to hear what I was learning. But that wasn't really true. Many were, but then we had to face the challenges of my brief allotted time slots for these important conversations. I learned pretty quickly to ask targeted questions to figure out which patients would be receptive to my newly gained insights. And that is so important because most healthcare settings demand that we have the right conversation with the right patient for the right reasons....and as quickly as possible.

Now that I have my own practice, I am spending much more time with patients, getting detailed intake and follow-up forms to gather as much insight as possible before visits. We are able to maximize our time together to meet their goals. And that is a big part of the take home message of this blog post- THEIR GOALS. It's easy for me to help my patients now with their goals because they are motivated. They found me and partnered with me because they were READY.

One of my functional nursing students wrote this week that it really stuck with her when I said in a Zoom meeting that we can't want things for our patients more than they want it for themselves. We can't get attached to their outcomes. That is up to them. In functional medicine, we are educators and advocates; we can provide accountability, and we can empower our patients on their chosen health journey.... BUT the rest is up to them.

Functional medicine isn't for everybody. This isn't a statement of exclusion but rather an acknowledgment of the profound commitment required from patients to truly reap the benefits of this transformative approach.

Understanding Functional Medicine

At its core, functional medicine is about digging deep into the root causes of illness. It's not a quick fix or a band-aid solution. Instead, it's a journey into understanding how and why the body is out of balance and using that insight to restore health and wellness. This journey often involves significant lifestyle and dietary changes, regular monitoring, and a willingness to engage in a process of discovery and healing.

The Need for Patient Readiness

This is where the readiness of a patient becomes crucial. Functional medicine demands more than just showing up for appointments; it requires active participation in one’s own health. It's about making real, sometimes challenging, changes to the way we live, eat, and think. For some, this is a daunting proposition. The path of functional medicine is less about prescribing a pill to alleviate symptoms and more about empowering individuals to take control of their health. This empowerment, while incredibly rewarding, is also demanding.

The Role of a Nurse or Nurse Practitioner in Functional Medicine

This demanding nature of functional medicine is precisely why the role of a nurse or nurse practitioner is pivotal. In my practice, I might encounter patients who become overwhelmed by the changes they need to make when it isn't as straightforward as they had expected- "tell me what to eat and what workouts to do". They may understand what needs to be done beyond simple food and exercise plans but struggle with how to implement these changes into their everyday lives. This is where my nurse coaching background becomes invaluable.

Bridging the Gap with Nurse Coaching

Nurse coaching can be an excellent adjunct when practicing functional medicine. As a nurse coach, the goal is to guide patients through their barriers to change with a focus on THEIR GOALS. It's about providing the support and tools they need to make sustainable lifestyle adjustments. This coaching goes beyond medical advice; it delves into the emotional and psychological aspects of change. It's about building a relationship based on trust, understanding, and empathy.

Patients often know what they need to do to improve their health but find themselves stuck. This is where a nurse coach steps in – to help uncover the deeper reasons behind these blockages and to develop strategies to overcome them. This process is as much about healing the mind as it is about healing the body.

Why Functional Medicine Isn’t for Everyone

So, when I say functional medicine isn't for everybody, it's an acknowledgment of the level of commitment and readiness required. It's a path well-suited for those who are ready to take an active role in their health, who are open to exploring the deeper causes of their ailments, and who are willing to embrace change. We can focus on creating a practice that is ready and accessible to those who are ready to partner with us. It can be a challenge for us as functional nurses and nurse practitioners to let go of that attachment to our patients' outcomes, but there are so many people ready for what we have to offer, and there are so few of us! I always encourage my students to focus on the people who are ready. They are often seeking us out!

For nurses and nurse practitioners seeking to learn more, I teach the Functional Medicine for Nurses™ course through the Integrative Nurse Coach Academy in partnership with the Institute for Functional Medicine. This course is designed to blend the functional medicine approach with the nursing perspective. By enrolling, you'll gain comprehensive insights into functional medicine principles and how to apply this knowledge in nursing practice. This training is not just about acquiring information; it's about empowering you to transform patient care and become a leader in the field of holistic nursing and functional medicine. If you're passionate about advancing your career and enhancing your ability to heal, I invite you to join us and take the next step in your professional journey. Learn more here.


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