Great Review of Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine--a holistic approach to health and healing--is a collection of ancient practice that are regaining popularity today. Rather than isolating and treating patients’ symptoms alone, naturopathic doctors focus on the complete well-being of a person and consider the patient an active participant in their own recovery and well-being.
In addition to the same biomedical science and clinical training conventional medical doctors receive, naturopathic students are grounded in naturopathic philosophy and theory and explore an exhaustive array of both Western and Eastern medical techniques. These include classical Chinese medicine, nutrition, herbal medicine and homeopathy, hydrotherapy and naturopathic manipulative therapy, as well as standard medical practices such as pharmacology, diagnostic medicine, and surgery.
Students gain firsthand clinical experience in patient examinations, and graduates are eligible to take national board exams for licensure (where applicable) as a naturopathic physician (N.D.).
Becoming a naturopathic doctor requires a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree. (The initials right behind your name on your business card would be “N.D.”) It is a minimum of a four-year, post-baccalaureate program,. Only students who graduate from one of the 7 AANMC accredited schools are eligible to sit for the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), the two step examination required to obtain licensure.
It’s important to note that graduates of online/correspondence programs are not eligible for licensure as naturopathic doctors in any jurisdiction that regulates naturopathic physicians. This is because all jurisdictions that regulate naturopathic physicians require completion of an accredited, in-residence doctoral level program that includes hands-on, supervised clinical training. Furthermore, graduates of online/correspondence programs are neither qualified nor eligible to sit for the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX).
A popular related degree is the Master of Science in Oriental Medicine (M.S.O.M.), a four-year program focused on Classical Chinese Medicine. While N.D. majors explore some facets of Chinese medicine, M.S.O.M. students delve deeply into it and bring this practice, intact, into their framework of Western scientific thought. Graduates are eligible to test for certification in acupuncture and herbal medicine. At some schools, it is possible to complete a dual N.D. and M.S.O.M. degree in a six-year, combined program of study.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program
What are the licensure or certification requirements in your state?
Does your school feed into a licensing or certification program?
Is an internship or job-placement program operating at this school?
What specialized, naturopathic modalities are taught at this school?
There are really two types of naturopaths. A traditional naturopath cedes regular treatment of illness and trauma to ordinary M.D.s and uses naturopathy as a body-, mind-, and spirit-balancing complement to conventional medicine. Generally, traditional naturopaths study through an apprenticeship program and online coursework, and are not degree-bearing or licensed like naturopathic physicians. While they can be effective, the lack of regulation in their education and practice means that unskilled practitioners from this camp have occasionally given naturopathy a bad rap in the public eye through tragic accidents.
The second type, of naturopathic doctor—the kind who has obtained their N.D. degree and the kind we’re focusing on here—typically works as a primary-care physician. They conduct regular intake and evaluation of patients, discussing symptoms and diagnosis and advising them on nutrition and stress and other lifestyle issues that may be contributing as the root cause of an illness. In addition to a repertoire of conventional medical practices, stellar people skills, and capacity for out-of-the-box thinking really come in handy for a naturopathic physician, to better grasp the big picture of holistic health and helping patients understand the benefits of an integrated, healthy lifestyle.
An N.D. may perform some outpatient procedures, such as minor surgery, manipulation, or hydrotherapy. They may prescribe homeopathic remedies and herbal medicines and refer patients to specialists as necessary. Some N.D.s work in specialized fields like oncology, pediatrics and women’s medicine; others focus on specific naturopathic modalities that run the gamut from A to Z--from commonly accepted procedures such as acupuncture to nutrition, hydrotherapy and IV Therapy.
The regulation of naturopathic physicians is an evolving and somewhat controversial issue, and many states are considering naturopathic legislation. Right now, naturopathic doctors are regulated by law in 18 states - Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania , Utah, Vermont, and Washington; the District of Columbia, the US territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgins and 5 Canadian Provinces - Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan Islands all have laws regulating naturopathic doctors (NDs). In addition, some organizations certify--but don’t regulate--naturopathic doctors. Certifying organizations basically just document that their certified members have completed a course of study (of whatever caliber) in the naturopathic field.
According to a survey by the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, naturopathic doctors generally earn in the low- to mid-range of family practice doctors. A beginning N.D., just starting up his or her practice, working part-time or building a staff, may earn between $30,000 to $50,000 per year. However, an N.D. in an established full-time practice makes a median income of $90,000 per year--and may make upwards of $250,000.
Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC) American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)