How to Become an Integrative or Holistic Nurse Practitioner
I talk with a lot of nurse practitioners who've grown frustrated with the "pills, pills, pills" mindset of so many in our culture. Our patients are looking for a quick, easy fix to their health issues. But, exercise and diet of course are the best solution for health maintenance in most people. Getting back to the basics of a healthy lifestyle can prevent the requirement for treatments like surgeries and medications and leave our patients feeling far better than supplying a pharmacologic fix to their problems.
This observation has many nurse practitioners looking to careers in integrative or holistic medicine. The fields of holistic and integrative medicine designate themselves as ones that address patients' physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, social and environmental well being. They emphasize wellness and not just the treatment of disease states. Many times, integrative or holistic medicine practitioners integrate alternative therapies into their practices.
If you're a nurse practitioner who would like to practice in the integrative or holistic setting, how do you go about obtaining the knowledge and certification required to do so?
1. Become a Nurse Practitioner
If you aren't already an NP, you will need to follow the trajectory to be become a certified nurse practitioner. This means obtaining an RN or BSN degree, then at least a master's degree in nursing (MSN). If you're interested in working in integrative medicine, a specialty as a family or adult nurse practitioner will fit best with your ultimate career goal. After your nurse practitioner schooling, you will take the certification exam and apply for a state license to practice, at which point you'll be allowed to work as a nurse practitioner.
2. Supplement Your Knowledge
There is no formal certification for nurse practitioners in integrative or holistic medicine. So, once you become an NP in the traditional manner, you'll need to supplement your education in this area. The University of Minnesota, for example, offers an integrative health and healing DNP program. Tennessee State University offers a post-graduate program in holistic nursing including 14 credit hours of coursework. Similarly, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs offers a graduate certificate in holistic nursing program. These types of courses will get you the specialized knowledge you're looking for to apply to your nurse practitioner practice.
3. Get Experience
The best way to become specialized in a field like holistic or integrative medicine as a nurse practitioner is to work alongside other experienced healthcare providers. Seek out employment in a supportive setting with other providers willing to teach you in a holistic or integrative practice. This way, you'll hone your skills becoming a confident integrative health nurse practitioner.
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One of the best resources to follow is the Institute for Functional Medicine. (IFM) They have a large number of classes, and a community to join to practice root cause integrative medicine. I am a soon to be NP graduate in Primary Care and Occupational Environmental Medicine from UCSF. IFM is my next step to learning to practice in a holistic manner. They have many free workshops and offer steep student discounts. Even better, they are an scientific, evidence based platform. My only issue that they could use more nursing representation. So, let's do that!