Nursing can be a great career for some. However, if you’re here, I’m guessing that you , for one reason or another, are looking for something a bit different.
Maybe you’re tired of passing pills and want to help people in a more holistic and natural way. Or maybe you were fired for not doing something you didn’t want to do (mandates anyone?). I’ve been there and you can read that story here if you’d like.
Or maybe you or someone in your family is struggling with a health issue and you are’t happy with what is being offered to you from traditional medicine. You know that there’s more (and much better) options out there than the “pill for every ill” mantra.
Whatever your reasoning, you’ll find the steps you need to take in order to go from a nurse to being a nutritionist. I’ve been a nurse for 12 years now and a seeing nutrition clients for roughly 7 of those years now. I can tell you that working holistically with clients is very rewarding. It never gets old when I hear that a client isn’t having migraines anymore, or they’re pregnant after trying for years.
It truly is amazing to be able to help people without the medications that often come with nasty side-effects. To be able to give someone hope that there is something that can help them when they haven’t found that help anywhere else.
Getting Certified in Nutrition
Getting certified in nutrition is something that you’ll likely want to do. Your nursing background will give you an amazing foundation. Many of the courses such as A & P, microbiology, and pathophysiology are going to come in very handy.
Although you have a good foundation, getting certified in nutrition will help you to look at what you already know from a different, holistic perspective. From a “Recommended daily allowance” to blood chemistry, looking at the body from a functional perspective can take some time and unlearning of what you know.
There are a lot of nutrition programs to choose from these days, even more than when I got certified in 2015. However, there are only a few that I would even consider and only one that I would recommend. The program I would recommend for nurses is the Functional Diagnostic Nutrition program. The FDN is a very comprehensive and in-depth nutrition program. Unlike some of the more well-known programs (I’m looking at you, IIN), the Functional Diagnostic Nutrition program is a deep dive into health from a functional perspective, including labs and interpretation of them.
I guess for me personally, I didn’t want to be a health coach, I wanted to be more on the side of a functional nutritionist. And honestly as nurses, most of us have those nerdy brains that want ALL the down and dirty on the why and how of what is happening in our client’s bodies. You won’t get that in a typical health coaching program.
The National Association of Nutrition Professionals is a great resource for making sure that you have all your ducks in a row when it comes to practicing legally in your state. The NANP also offers a board certification as well. Unfortunately, helping people in a natural way can be considered controversial in this day and age. It may not even be your client, but one of their family members or their doctor that brings your practice into question.
Each state has laws regarding what you can and can’t call yourself. As in, you can’t call yourself a dietician or nutritionist unless you’re licensed as a dietician in certain states. In some states, unless you’re a dietician, you can’t give out personalized nutrition recommendations.
I recommend keeping your nursing license active and up to date. In many states, your nursing license will give you a bit more leeway because we were “trained in nutrition” (remember that ONE class period) in our nursing program. However, because you’re considered a healthcare professional, you may also be under more scrutiny.
Each state is different in what this entails, so know your state laws. As of the writing of this article, if you have a license in one of the pact states, it’s valid in 39 states total. However, each state varies on what is required when keeping your license active. This may include needing to take some CEU’s.
Keeping your license active may give you a bit more scope of practice than if you only have a nutrition certification, even if it’s from a good program. There are also some labs and supplement companies that will only work with licensed healthcare professionals. Keeping your license also allows you to use that “nurse” designation and can give a bit more credibility to your work.
Along with being legal is covering yourself. Again, there are going to be people out there who do not like what you’re doing. I personally have not had anything happen (as of yet) in regard to this, but I know many practitioners who have.
You’ll want to start by protecting that license you have. Now, as a nurse, we’re considered medical professionals, so I always go the safe route and get malpractice insurance. It’s not crazy expensive, and usually runs about $200 – $400 per year. This is also a write-off for your business, so don’t skimp on it. The two companies I would recommend for this are Lockton Affinity or Nurses Service Organization. Both companies are reputable and offer malpractice insurance at a reasonable rate.
You’ll also want to set up a legal entity for your business in your state. Many choose to do an LLC, but only you can decide if that (or something else) is best for your business. You can talk to a lawyer or a good accountant about the pros and cons of each entity and what may be a good fit for you specifically. You can see this article for how to form an LLC in your state. It’s usually a pretty easy process and not too expensive in most states.
You’ll also want to get an EIN number from the IRS. You can do that here. Again, it’s a pretty easy process, but one that is important to have in place. You’ll need this for some legal contracts as well as to open accounts with labs and supplement providers.
Have a Contract
Nothing can come back to bite you in the butt worse than a poor contract. A good contract protects you (aka CYA) and also lays out clear expectations for your clients as well.
Many of us don’t go into business thinking that we will have a customer who will ask for a refund, even though they are the ones who ghosted us. Or a doctor who accuses you of “giving medical advice”. But these things have happened to many nutritionists and health coaches out there.
You can avoid many of these problems by having a rock solid contract in place before you ever even see your first client. You’ll want to include things such as the advice you are giving isn’t medical advice and a liability disclaimer.
Now, getting a lawyer to write this up for you would be the ideal way to go. However, when you’re starting out in business, that can be a really hard bill to foot so early in your business before you’re making any money yet.
The great thing is that there are several lawyers that understand health and wellness and have prewritten contracts that are legally-binding that you can use in your business. My favorite go-to is this Health & Wellness Bundle of contracts from Destination Legal (use code NURSEBECCA to save 10%).
This bundle has all the jargon that you want in your contract, without the hefty price tag that would come from having a lawyer write it up for you.. I like that they also go through how to customize it for your business. DO NOT go the route of just copying someone else’s contract. Not only is that stealing, but you need to have something
Market your Practice
From there you’ll want to start marketing your practice. I recommend that you do this as soon as possible, and even while you’re still in your nutrition program. Just use your social media to share what you’re learning as you’re learning it. This will intrigue people to follow you even before you’re ready to take on clients. That way when you’re ready to start taking on clients, you’ll have people who are ready and waiting.
It’s also very easy to start a blog now and you can set one up over a focused weekend it you want. I will say though that it can be difficult to be consistent and stay at it. Especially if you are working and /or have children while you’re doing your nutrition program. But if you are interested in blogging, I highly recommend this course for learning how to write well and in an engaging format.
Podcasting is also a great market and a relatively unsaturated one compared to blogging, at least at this point. Getting a podcast up and going is a fairly easy process, but again, it can be difficult to be consistent. Just remember whichever avenue you choose for marketing your business, that you treat it like work. Plan for it, make time for it in your schedule, and do it.
Those are the things I would recommend for a nurse who wants to become a nutrition, or really get into any holistic health field. WIth your skill set and background in nursing, you have a great foundation to pursue just about anything you’re interested in. I’ll be doing some interviews with nurses very soon that show just how much you can do. Traditional healthcare does not have to be your destination if you don’t want it to be. Many of us have left the field and are so happy and content in what we’re doing now, and making decent money too.
If you’re this far and ready to take the next step, make sure to see this article on how