3X4’s new Functional Medicine Practitioner Spotlight series features interviews with practitioners, consultants and functional medicine thought leaders to explore everything functional medicine practitioners need to know about successfully building, managing, and growing their private practice.
The following is an interview we recently had with Christina Stapke, RDN, CD, Integrative & Functional Registered Dietitian(RDN)
What can you tell us about your practice?
CS: I have a virtual nutrition practice based in Seattle called Christina Stapke, RDN LLC. I launched in 2019 while working at two other locations as an RDN, and since that time I’ve gotten either licensed and/or registered in 6 different states. I largely focus on digestive conditions like IBS, SIBO, IBD and other autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s, Celiac, RA, and ITP. I also see a variety of clients with cardiometabolic concerns like diabetes and hypertension. I use my 7-Step Gut Restoration Protocol with each new client that includes micronutrient testing/OAT, peptide-level food sensitivity testing, and gut microbiome analysis. I also use other testing methodologies if needed after going through this protocol. Each protocol is tailored to each client and I’ve found it can make a huge difference in addressing underlying causes and ultimately getting the body back into balance.
What surprised you the most when you started your practice?
CS: I was told often that it would be difficult to get clients and grow my practice due to not taking insurance. However, I wanted to make sure I could practice in a way that would serve my clients best. I was pleasantly surprised when my practice began attracting clients that were open to going the private pay route. While I still offer superbills and payment plans.
I’ve learned that when clients are motivated enough to make a positive change in their lives, they often can make the finances work.
I’ve learned to never assume anything about someone regarding their finances and what they will choose to prioritize.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome as you built your practice? How did you overcome it?
CS: My biggest challenge was getting really comfortable with selling. I previously had no training in sales and it felt extremely uncomfortable at first. I overcame this by enrolling in a business mastermind that really allowed me to become so much more confident in this process, viewing it as a way to continue to help people deeply versus asking people for money. Now I’m completely comfortable and look forward to the process, and I’m offering programs that are at price points beyond what I ever would have imagined offering in the past. Ultimately, I’m comfortable offering these because I know this is how I’m going to help my clients to the best of my ability.
What advice would you give to other practitioners considering launching their own practice?
CS: It can be a really overwhelming and uncomfortable process especially at the beginning, however it’s really helpful to remind yourself that all this discomfort will translate to massive growth. Staying in a positive mindset and believing in yourself/your success is crucial.
I would also strongly recommend reaching out to others who have done this before and enlist their help. I’ve found that 99% of the time practitioners are happy to give some insight to help you along.
I also think that joining a business mastermind or hiring a coach at first is very helpful to accelerate your progress. It also gave me a sense of community.
What excites you most about the field of functional medicine?
You can hyper-personalize recommendations and interventions for people, and this is a game changer in getting people feeling better.
I also love seeing my clients get as excited about the field as I am when they have “ah-ha” moment about what’s going on with their health. That is probably the most rewarding part of practicing. Getting more people excited about FM and spreading the word as they’re feeling better! I also love that functional medicine combines updated research, with interventions that actually work for people, along with the intuition of the practitioner given their experience. It’s a way of practicing that is a perfect marriage of all of these strategies and ultimately helps people deeply.
Where do you see your practice 5 years from now?
CS: I see myself continuing to work in a virtual setting, continuing to give talks (however in the future in front of much larger audiences), having the ability to live in Seattle in the summer and Mexico in the winter to be able to surf and live my ultimate dream. I also plan to be teaching many group classes and plan to have at least 1-2 other dietitians working on my team. I plan to continue to foster good relationships with other providers in my referral network as well. I also plan to work 3-4 days a week with financial freedom. Lastly, I plan to integrate a scholarship program to support people that are not able to afford the specialty testing and appointments. I want to increase access to functional medicine to underserved communities/populations as well.