What is a Naturopathic Dr?
A Naturopathic doctor (ND) is trained as primary care physician in a 4-year accredited, doctoral-level naturopathic medical school. Didactic instruction is between 2,580 to 3,270 hours, and clinical instruction is between 1,200 to 1,500 hours.
To be eligible for licensure, an ND must graduate from an accredited naturopathic medical school and pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEx). NPLEx follows the same standards as the National Board of Medical Examiners (for the USMLE), the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, etc. Currently, there are 15 U.S. states, 2 U.S. territories, provinces in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand that recognize licensure for NDs.
NDs are specialists in natural medicine and trained in potential drug-herb interactions. Treatment modalities include diet and clinical nutrition, behavioral change, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, botanical medicine, physical medicine, chiropractic adjustments, pharmaceuticals, and minor surgery.
Blood work and urinalysis is utilized by complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) but they interpret the information differently. Conventional medicine looks for results to be within normal limits and do not treat until a positive diagnosis is made; an ND looks for a trend in results and makes a treatment plan to prevent positive diagnosis’. An ND may employ additional laboratory tests and examination procedures not used by medical doctors. These include neurotransmitter tests, digestive stool analysis, parasitology, full panel immunology (not only IgE but also IgG, IgA), Vit D & Vit K, volatile solvents profile, cross-reactive sensitivity panels and metabolic analysis. ND’s may also be licensed to perform minor office procedures and surgery, administer vaccinations, and prescribe many prescriptive drugs
Some ND’s, like myself, choose to learn modalities beyond the standard educational system. Currently, I am certifying for Applied Kinesiology, Neuro Emotional Technique, acupuncture and Functional Neurology.
ND’s do work in private practice, hospitals, clinics, community health centers, universities, and private industry. ND’s often collaborate with conventional physicians in the co-management and mutual referral of patients. An increasing number of insurance companies, unions, and state organizations are credentialing licensed NDs.
The Education of a Naturopathic Dr
-Naturopathic schools are governed by the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC). AANMC is recognized by the Secretary of the United States Department of Education. AANMC schools are accredited by Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). There are 5 schools in America and 2 shools in Canada.
Naturopathic medical training programs are four-year, in-residence, graduate-level medical school. In both MD and ND schools, the first two years focus on biomedical science, clinical sciences, and diagnostics. During the first two years, ND students’ credit loads are very similar to those of MD students. In some cases ND students carry a heavier course load burden than their MD student counterparts.
The third and fourth years of training distinguish naturopathic programs from traditional programs in several ways. Much of the ND curriculum is devoted to non-pharmaceutical/non-surgical approaches to managing patient conditions, In addition to the biomedical and clinical sciences, ND students are extensively trained in lifestyle counseling, nutrition, and health promotion. Notably, ND students in U.S. average approximately 150 hours of nutrition training beyond the 1,330 hours of clinical training that MD's do not receive (Source: AANMC Member Survey, 2017). ND students have hands-on clinical training and practice, often at their schools’ teaching clinics and off-site clinics, which offer diverse patient populations. As a result, ND students graduate prepared to begin practice and to diagnose and treat patients in ambulatory settings.
All ND students attending AANMC member schools receive over 4,100 contact hours of instruction over four or more years, including a minimum of 1,200 hours of clinical training.
Sources: MD program information: LCME Annual Medical School Questionnaire Part II; 130 schools provided data for 2013-14; no data shown for 2014-15 or 2015-16; AANMC Member Survey 2017; http://admissions.nunm.edu/files/2013/10/2016-17-ND-Curriculum.pdf; http://www.bridgeport.edu/academics/graduate/naturopathic-medicine-nd/curriculum-and-program-requirements/; http://www.scnm.edu/media/3591/4-year-pos-correct.pdf.