Can an RN practice Functional Medicine?
When I began nursing school, I knew I wasn't going to be a traditional nursing student or nurse. I knew that I viewed medicine and healthcare differently than many of my peers. My goal was to do the traditional nursing path until I became a nurse practitioner, which would allow me to practice medicine from a more holistic perspective, in a way that felt good to me.
However, just a year after becoming an RN, I found nurse coaching (whole person wellness coaching) and the world of functional medicine.
Before we go any further, what is functional medicine?
Functional medicine is an approach to healthcare that seeks to uncover root causes of health conditions looking at an individual's health history and lifestyle to get a comprehensive view of what may be going on.
So, can an RN, without an advanced degree such as nurse practitioner, practice functional medicine within their scope of practice?
An RN does have limitations, such as they cannot diagnose, prescribe, or order labs, but they can still read labs, and provide loads of education. The beautiful thing about functional medicine is that I am not looking to diagnose my clients, I am looking to put together pieces of their health history to assess what might be causing them to feel unwell. We then take that information, and provide education and coaching on lifestyle change. That may be dietary changes, exercise, stress reduction activities, toxin elimination, spiritual practices, relationships, sleep, and supplements when appropriate.
Many times a client comes to functional medicine after being to several providers and not having clear cut answers or a diagnosis and still feeling unwell.
Other times clients come with a diagnosis already that they are looking to support in ways outside of the standard, western medicine recommendations or pharmaceuticals. I use my nursing knowledge and background to assess if functional medicine is an appropriate avenue for them to explore or if their health condition is outside of my personal scope of practice.
Roughly a year ago, I was blessed to train in functional medicine as an RN under a nurse practitioner who emphasized that RN's are perfectly trained and equipped to functional medicine using so much of our nursing knowledge and then applying that in a way that whole person centered. She helped me to realize that while becoming a nurse practitioner may expand my scope of practice, that I don't need to become and NP to begin practicing healthcare the way that I have desired and planned from the beginning of my nursing school education. I have all of the skills and tools I need right now to support clients in holistic, whole person health.