What Is a Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 12, 2022 | Published June 8, 2021

Updated August 12, 2022

Published June 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Video: A Day in the Life of a Nurse Practitioner

Tiffany, a nurse practitioner, shows what a day in the life of an NP is actually like including shift hours, work environment and job duties!

Functional medicine offers an individualized approach to medicine by focusing on the root cause of an illness rather than the symptoms. Many medical professionals incorporate functional medicine in their practice because they want to offer holistic care to their patients. If you plan to work in the medical field and want to learn how to care for patients physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, you may be interested in becoming a functional medicine nurse practitioner.

In this article, we explain what a functional medicine nurse practitioner is, explore their job responsibilities, average salary and job outlook and share the steps to become one.

What is a functional medicine nurse practitioner?

A functional medicine nurse practitioner is a medical professional who takes a comprehensive approach to health care by incorporating traditional medicine, mindfulness and preventative techniques. Also referred to as holistic nurse practitioners, they may use naturopathic medicine to address the root causes of different diseases. They focus on each patient and their environment as a whole, involve patients in their health care decisions and teach patients to optimize their overall health and well-being. Functional medicine nurse practitioners may work alongside other health care professionals, such as primary care physicians and other nurses.

Related: 20 Types of Nursing Positions

What does a functional medicine nurse practitioner do?

Some of the techniques functional medicine nurse practitioners may use in their practice include acupuncture, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, massage therapy and guided meditation. Some common job duties include

  • Developing holistic treatment plans for diseases

  • Assessing patient's emotional, mental and spiritual needs

  • Facilitating recovery plans and health maintenance routines

  • Performing acupressure

  • Providing nutritional counseling

  • Integrating herbal therapy

  • Assessing patients and diagnosing illnesses

  • Ordering and interpreting tests

  • Documenting patients' medical history

  • Prescribing medications, hormones and functional medicine treatments

  • Performing medical procedures

  • Referring patients to specialists

Related: A Day in the Life of a Nurse: Typical Daily Activities and Duties

Work environment and schedule

Functional medicine nurse practitioners often work full time. They may be required to work some evening or weekend hours to accommodate their patients' schedules. Functional medicine nurse practitioners can work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Private health care facilities

  • Birthing centers

  • Patients' homes

  • Hospitals

  • Integrative health facilities

  • Outpatient clinics

Salary and job outlook

While the average annual salary for functional medicine nurse practitioners is currently unavailable, the average annual salary for nurse practitioners in the United States is $113,125 per year. They may also earn an average of $17,500 in overtime each year and be eligible to receive benefits through their employer. Common benefits they receive include:

  • Health insurance

  • Malpractice insurance

  • Dental insurance

  • Vision insurance

  • Disability insurance

  • Relocation assistance

  • 403(b)

  • Loan assistance

  • 401(k)

  • Paid time off

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives is positive. The BLS predicts a 45% increase in employment for this career field by 2030, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all careers. This may be due to an increased emphasis on preventative care and a demand for more healthcare services to accommodate an aging population.

Education and requirements to become a functional medicine nurse practitioner

While several career paths may lead medical professionals to become functional medicine nurse practitioners, there are a few basic requirements to become certified for this position. Here are some of the requirements to become a functional medicine nurse practitioner:

Education

The first step to becoming a functional medicine nurse practitioner is to obtain an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing. Having a degree can help you obtain your registered nurse (RN) licensure.

Next, pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Once you complete your MSN or DNP, you may be eligible to receive your nursing practitioner (NP) licensure. Completing an accredited MSN or DNP is required to become a functional medicine nurse practitioner.

State licenses

To be eligible to apply for your functional medicine nurse practitioner certification, you must first become licensed in a primary healthcare specialty. There are several specialties you may consider based on your interests and career goals. The most common primary healthcare credentials functional medicine nurse practitioners obtain include:

  • Medical doctor

  • Doctor of Chiropractic

  • Dentist

  • Physician assistant

  • Registered dietitian

  • Pharmacist

  • Doctor of Osteopathy

  • Naturopathic doctor

  • Nurse practitioner

  • Registered nurse

  • Acupuncturist

Certifications

Once you have obtained one of the necessary primary health care credentials, you can apply to enroll in the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) program which is presented in collaboration with the Center for Functional Medicine (CFM). You can learn how to use functional medicine in a clinical practice. You can also learn how functional medicine can benefit the six different systems of the body. These systems are:

  • Gastrointestinal

  • Immune

  • Cardiometabolic

  • Detox

  • Hormone

  • Energy

You may be able to enroll in an in-person or virtual IFM course depending on where you live and what your preferences are. The IFM program takes an average of 17 credit hours to complete. Once you have finished your coursework, you may be required to submit a case report and pass a written exam. By completing these requirements you can earn your functional medicine nurse practitioner certification.

Certification renewal

You can maintain your status as a functional medicine nurse practitioner by holding an active healthcare license and renewing your IFM certification. To renew your IFM certification, you may need to pass a written examination once every 10 years and submit a copy of your current health care practitioner license. This can ensure you remain an active IFM member.

Functional medicine nurse practitioner skills

Here are some important skills that can help you advance in your career as a functional medicine nurse practitioner:

Knowledge of holistic practices

In addition to having a strong background in healthcare and medicine, good functional medicine nurse practitioners have a deep understanding of holistic practices. Studying naturopathic medicine, botanical therapies, herbs and nutrition, acupuncture, massage therapy and other traditional wellness techniques can help you provide well-rounded patient care. It can also help you customize treatment plans for each of your patients.

Empathy

In addition to working with patients on their physical and mental health, functional medicine nurse practitioners provide emotional and spiritual care. As a functional medicine nurse practitioner, being empathetic toward your patients is important because they may visit you during particularly vulnerable stages in their lives. Having a caring, welcoming and respectful demeanor can help you ensure your patients feel listened to and understood.

Read more: How To Be Empathetic In the Workplace

Communication

As a functional medicine nurse practitioner, it's important to communicate clearly with your patients and other health care providers to ensure they receive the proper treatment. Take the time to explain your treatment recommendations thoroughly, provide detailed guidelines and share the potential benefits. You can also practice active listening by paying attention to nonverbal cues, such as gestures and eye contact, and pausing to allow your patients to ask questions. This can help you ensure your patients have all the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their overall health and well-being.

Read more: 4 Types of Communication and How to Improve Them

Technology skills

Functional medicine nurse practitioners use computer programs and software applications to maintain electronic health records, document treatment plans and access databases. They also operate basic medical equipment, such as blood pressure and heart rate monitors. Being comfortable with different software programs and medical equipment can help you maintain organized and accurate documents.

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

Relationship building

To provide holistic care for their patients, functional medicine nurse practitioners must build trust with them. You can make your patients feel comfortable, safe and welcome by building strong relationships with them. Ask them about their interests, hobbies, goals and weekend plans to learn more about them and build rapport. This can make it easier for your patients to open up to you about their emotional and spiritual needs. It can also help your patients feel like they have a safe space to discuss challenges they may be experiencing at home, at work or in their relationships.

Read more: Relationship Building Skills: Definitions and Examples

Attention to detail

Functional medicine nurse practitioners may review medical histories, treatment plans and symptoms of multiple patients each day. Paying close attention to detail can help functional medicine nurse practitioners keep their patients healthy and safe. Remembering important details about their patient's goals, interests and hobbies can also help them develop trusting and caring relationships with them. Record important information accurately and take thorough notes that you can reference before each patient's session to improve your attention to detail.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles