Is a Naturopathic Doctor a Real Doctor?
A Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) or Naturopathic Doctor is a health practitioner who practices holistic (or “whole being”) medicine that focuses on more natural treatments of patients and diseases. Naturopathy is sometimes called alternative medicine, because it deviates from what is typically taught in medical schools and programs.
For example, if you are a regular general practitioner and one of your patients comes to you with a sore throat, you will likely prescribe medication to soothe their symptoms or heal the problem. If you are a ND, by contrast, you would look at the reasons behind the sore throat and attempt to solve the problem using only natural methods. These methods could include prescribing a meal plan full of natural healthy foods, or suggesting that the patient take a few minutes in the morning to drink herbal tea with honey and relax. A Doctor of Naturopathy, then, is a doctor that promotes the healing powers of nature and the body rather than the “unnatural” healing powers of traditional medicine.
The tasks of a Doctor of Naturopathy
The most popular misconception about Doctors of Naturopathy is that they are, for lack of a better term, “quacks” who know nothing about medicine, illness, or the body. However, Doctors of Naturopathy learn about the human body and the variety of illnesses and conditions that a patient will face just like a regular, traditional physician. Many programs run by Naturopathy doctors involve biochemical and cellular study of the body, and there have been several breakthroughs about the body discovered through such programs, benefiting the medical community as a whole.
Doctors of Naturopathy will often have their own beliefs about how to best treat patient’s, in addition to using what they have learned through their programs and schooling. This means that every Naturopathic doctor may have their own particular leanings when making decisions. For example, an emphasis on proper diet.
Some Doctors of Naturopathy are self-employed and run their own clinics, while others work in Naturopathy clinics, similar to a traditional hospital clinic or office. A Naturopathic Doctor who begins self-employed will often have an initially smaller client base than a doctor who works for an established office or clinic. In addition to seeing patients, a self-employed doctor may need to work daily on networking and getting their clinic noticed by potential clients. The benefits of self-employment in this field are that the doctor may work within their own beliefs about treatment without worrying about this clashing with employers, fellow Doctors, or the overall beliefs of the clinic.
A ND working in an established clinic, office or hospital will often need to work with the established practices of their fellow employers and the overall philosophy of the clinic. Although this may be a problem for some, the upside to working for an established office or clinic is that more patients are typically seen, and the client base is larger.
Regardless of where a Doctor of Naturopathy works, their daily practice will consist of seeing patients, updating their records, and doing any additional work required for diagnosing, testing, and other aftercare for patients. Because Naturopathy focuses on treating the whole patient—physical and mental—most Doctors of Naturopathy see far less patients each day than their traditional counterparts. Where a regular physician might have twenty-five appointments in an 8 to 6 setting, a Doctor of Naturopathy might limit themselves to ten or fifteen. This is because they will want to get a fuller history of their patient, including any emotional problems they may be having, in order to better treat the patient naturally. The focus of Naturopathy is much more personal and slow than a traditional office, where the emphasis is on finding out what is wrong as quickly as possible and treating it with scientific medicines and treatments.
After spending some time with the patient and working out a natural treatment, a Doctor of Naturopathy must update the patient’s records and deal with any after care. Most offices, clinics and hospitals dealing with Naturopathy do employ medical assistants, cardiovascular technologists, and office workers, however Doctors must still work with records each day.
Some Doctors of Naturopathy choose to focus on one area of study, like any traditional physician, such as children’s health, heart disease, orthopedics, and more. Depending on what they have decided to focus on, their daily schedule might change. A Naturopathic doctor who focuses on heart disease might wish to spend much more time with on patient due to the serious nature of their condition, for example.
Training to work as a ND
To become a licensed Doctor of Naturopathy in the United States who is allowed to act as a general practitioner, you must graduate from an accredited naturopathic medical school. Accredited naturopathic medical schools require at least four years of study. Accredited Naturopathic medical programs require the study of both naturopathic medicine and traditional medicine. You must also pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam, or NPLEX. This exam covers basic sciences, diagnostic and therapeutic study, and clinical science.
Not every state allows for the licensing naturopathic physicians. Currently, only 16 states, the US territories of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have laws regulating the accreditation of naturopathic doctors. It is important to research the laws of each state, as they may vary. In states where there are no laws allowing for naturopathic physicians to practice as general practitioners, or where naturopathic medicine is banned, there may be laws which allow naturopathic physicians to “consult” but not treat. That is, someone who has taken an accredited program may suggest treatment to a patient, but not officially treat them in any manner. Again, it is very important to look up the regulations regarding naturopathy in your state.
A Doctor of Naturopathy must have strong science skills in order to understand the workings of the human body and the natural processes it goes through in order to heal itself. Strong critical thinking skills are also a requirement, due to the necessity for natural treatments. A potential Doctor of Naturopathy should be in good health, and have very strong interpersonal skills and memory due to the more personal nature that they will have with their patients.
Salary & Prospective job market
The job market for a Doctor of Naturopathy is good, as more people seem to be looking for natural treatments.
The typical yearly salary of a Doctor of Naturopathy varies depending on their location an experience. Most Doctors of Naturopathy should expect to start out with a lower salary, with prices rising as they gain more clients and a reputation within the community. A naturopathic doctor can make as little as $20,000 a year, and as much a $200,000 a year. A more experienced doctor living in a high-income area will make more than a doctor who is just starting out and may not be living in an area where naturopathic medicine is popular.