Naturopathic physicians attend four-year graduate schools that are nationally accredited by the Council for Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). The CNME is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, which classifies the ND degree as a Doctorate-Professional degree, on par with MD and DO. Currently 7 schools in the US and Canada are accredited through the CNME to provide naturopathic medical education.
The naturopathic program consists of at least 4 years of study with over 4,100 clock-hours in the classroom or clinic. A minimum of 1,200 hours are spent in clinical education with direct patient contact under supervision.
(Not including undergraduate premedical training)
(time spent in direct contact with patients)
(total. That's a lot of hours of medical school!)
The main difference in education between a naturopathic physician (N.D.) and a medical doctor (M.D.) is in the the area of specialization. By definition naturopathic physicians are specialists in natural treatment of primary care conditions. While MD students do rotations in specialty fields in their 3rd and 4th years (like Oncology, Obstetrics, Surgery, etc), ND students do clinical work in naturopathic primary care, learning huge volumes of natural health material, including medical herbs, manipulation techniques, nutrition, vitamin/mineral supplementation, and more.
The goal of a naturopathic physician is to determine why someone became ill in the first place. This is why a naturopathic physician typically spends 2-3x the face-to-face time with patients as does a conventional medical doctor. To treat the underlying cause ND's use tools like counseling, botanical medicines, nutrition, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation, vitamin/mineral supplementation, hydrotherapy and more.
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of primary health care – an art, science and practice of preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions of the human mind and body. Naturopathic physicians work with nature to restore people’s health.
Naturopathic physicians work with their patients to prevent and treat acute and chronic illness and disease, restore health and establish optimal fitness by supporting the person’s inherent self-healing process, the vis medicatrix naturae. This is accomplished through:
Naturopathic physicians combine the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Steeped in traditional healing methods, principles and practices, naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. By using protocols that minimize the risk of harm, naturopathic physicians help facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. It is the naturopathic physician’s role to identify and remove barriers to good health by helping to create a healing internal and external environment.
Naturopathic physicians work in private practices, hospitals, clinics and community health centers. NDs practice throughout the United States and Canada. Qualified naturopathic physicians undergo rigorous training before they become licensed health-care practitioners.
NDs treat all medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. Among the most common ailments they treat are allergies, chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, obesity, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility problems, menopause, adrenal fatigue, cancer, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. NDs can perform minor surgeries, such as removing cysts or stitching up superficial wounds. However, they do not practice major surgery. NDs are trained to utilize prescription drugs, although the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents.
A naturopathic physician will take time with you. During your first appointment, your doctor will take your health history, find out about your diet, stress levels, use of tobacco and alcohol, and discuss why you’re there. He or she may perform an examination and order diagnostic tests. Naturopathic physicians keep themselves up-to-date on the latest scientific research and incorporate this evidence into their treatments. The naturopathic physician will work with you to set up a customized health management strategy. If necessary, your doctor will refer you to other health-care practitioners.
A first visit with a patient may last one to two hours and follow-up visits range from 30 to 60 minutes, although this varies depending on the ND. Naturopathic physicians need sufficient time to ask questions and understand the patient’s health goals. NDs also need time to gather information, do an appropriate examination and teach his or her patients about managing their condition and improving their health. An ND may also use diagnostic tests to fully understand their patient’s health status. Besides taking the time to carefully and fully assess a patient’s root problem, NDs speak and understand the language of conventional medicine. They can diagnose the way MDs do—yet, they bring to the patient a whole new arsenal of treatments and insights. Instead of waiting for a disease to emerge, NDs work to head it off before it happens.