The interest in functional medicine has increased significantly over the last 5-10 years. It is successfully helping those with chronic illnesses, but also helping burned out practitioners return to the reason they got into medicine – to spend more time with patients and be recommend more than “pills for ills”.
When you get involved in functional medicine education, you will find that you will never stop learning. Many start with one of the most known organizations for a full-spectrum education, but tend to require more training from smaller organizations or even practitioner courses.
A few things to keep in mind:
- There is no degree specifically for a “functional medicine practitioner”. There are degrees for the nutritional knowledge, but none of these (nor the certificates) are going to increase a licensed practitioner’s “scope of practice”.
- The most common certification required by employers is via the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), but certification is not necessarily going to increase your pay or advance your career. The most common reasons for following through on a certification include:
- Joining a referral network (via the certifying organization)
- Be a part of a community of other practitioners
- Be a form of accountability, to truly learn the material and be able to demonstrate that by passing the exam(s).
- Just because someone is certified does not mean that they practice functional medicine well. Just like in mainstream medicine, there are great and not-so-great practitioners (and sometimes you don’t find that out until you’ve spent money on them).
- Most of the best practitioners I have found aren’t putting themselves into the limelight with videos, books, and podcasting…they are just focused on doing a good job.
- Functional Medicine practitioners don’t have to be doctors, PAs, NPs, RNs, pharmacists, dietitians…or anyone with a medical education. In fact, there are many practitioners who have no formal functional medicine education! Since there is no over-seeing board, this becomes confusing for many patients and for those that want to practice “true” (i.e. not sensationalized or “get rich and famous”) functional medicine.
- I do hope that one day there is some regulation on this (i.e. a switch from “functional medicine” to “functional health” for those that have no medical education).