The quest to know How to become a naturopathic doctor prompted this article which explains the essentials you need in this career path
While modern medicine adopts contemporary medical practices, it also embraces traditional remedies.
Therapies such as yoga, massage, herbs, acupuncture, exercise and the likes have been synthesized with modern medicine and new-age medical professionals are accommodating these archaic medical traditions.
Naturopathy is no modern practice of medicine, but as new ideas are explored and new diseases discovered, the need to arrive at a finite diagnosis and a permanent, effective cure, is pertinent.
Naturopathic doctors practice medicine, however, the methods of practice might be slightly different from that of a medical doctor (MD) or a doctor of Osteopathy (DO). This, on one hand, does not disprove fact that Naturopathic doctors (ND) are doctors.
The heart of this article is on the steps to becoming a naturopathic doctor. However, some areas crucial to the discourse will be explored, succinctly.
While making a copious explanation for the required step to becoming an ND, it is also necessary to explain what naturopathy is, who a naturopathic doctor is, and what they do.
Hence, this article seeks to answer the following;
- What is Naturopathy?
- Who is a naturopathic doctor?
- The role of a naturopathic doctor.
- How to become a naturopathic doctor.
- Accredited courses in a naturopathic medical school.
- The difference between an ND and an MD.
What is Naturopathy?
There are many fields in medicine that are not exactly as popular as the others, but they do exist and play significant and peculiar roles in promoting and achieving healthy living.
The practice of naturopathic medicine is not a common name in most countries. However, naturopathy does not offer ‘make-do’ treatments, it proffers an absolute cure.
Naturopathy is a system of treatment of diseases that ducks the use of drugs and surgery and emphasizes the use of natural remedies.
The core of naturopathy is attaining total healing through the use of natural or traditional remedies, which would enable the body heal itself. Naturopathy was introduced to the United States in the early 19th century by Germany.
Most methods applied by a naturopathic doctor stemmed from age-long practices, which were later fused with modern science.
The new methods applied employs therapeutic exercises such as yoga, massage, meditation, the use of herb, acupuncture, homeopathy, psychotherapy and the other types of alternative medicine.
Naturopathic medicine is also synonymous to preventive, holistic, alternative and functional medicine. So, naturopathy is resolving to natural agents for whole body healing.
Who is a naturopathic doctor?
Like other Medical doctors (MDs), a naturopathic doctor (ND) is a doctor, professionally trained to identify the cause(s) of illnesses in a bid to discover a final remedy, using herbs, exercise, meditation, massage, hydrotherapy, and nutrition to bring about wellness and balance.
NDs employ alternative medical therapies alongside natural remedies to ensure that a patient enjoys optimum health results.
NDs also attend medical school like MDs and DOs, but they perform different roles.
The role of a Naturopathic doctor
Medical doctors spend a shorter time with patients in the consulting room, however, naturopathic doctors spend an average of 30-60minutes with a patient.
The roles of a naturopathic doctor are therefore unique, because they;
- Identify and treat the underlying cause of an illness: a naturopathic doctor would usually engage their patients in conversations regarding their health, lifestyle and environment. These are not routine questions alone as they intend to identify the illness in order to treat it completely. Before they resort to conventional medical practice, they attempt natural remedies and alternative medicine to get rid of the illness.
- Approach a medical condition using a sparingly invasive but the most effective method: NDs are deliberate about natural methods as panacea to medical conditions. Hence, naturopathic doctors prescribe natural treatment and alternative ones in order to cure the disease or medical condition suffered by the patient. The least detrimental but most effective methods are employed by NDs to approach medical conditions.
- Treat the whole person: MDs would normally prescribe temporary treatment for a disease, but an ND undergoes a holistic treatment to extirpate the disease.
A career in naturopathic medicine is very lucrative. However, medicine is not a “walk-into” career. If you are interested in using natural means and procedures to treat ailments or diseases, then you are treading the naturopathic medicine path.
It might also interest you that becoming a naturopathic doctor is possible, only after paying heed and meeting the crucial requirements. Take note as this is the crux of this discourse.
How to become a Naturopathic doctor
While you envision a career in naturopathy, it is imperative to note that medical school births the first half of the most challenging years in your life as a medical practitioner.
Leaving that aside, to begin a naturopathic career, you would need to meet the following requirements;
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in any medical-related field.
- Enroll in a naturopathic medical school.
- Sit for and pass the NPLEX.
- Enroll for a postgraduate residency programme.
- Obtain licensure.
Earn a bachelor’s degree: to begin a career as a naturopathic doctor, you must have earned an undergraduate degree in any medical-related field.
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in any medical-related field is the minimum entry requirement into naturopathic medical school.
Needless to say, the foundation of this step begins in high school, where the basics of core subjects like chemistry, biology and physics are taught.
Enroll in a naturopathic medical school: obtaining a baccalaureate degree in any medical major qualifies you for entry into a naturopathic medical school.
A naturopathic medical school is usually for four years and must be accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME).
Sit for and pass the NPLEX: Naturopathic doctors are required to sit and pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEX).
Upon completion of the 4-year naturopathic degree programme, an ND must pass a postdoctoral board exam. Excelling at this step, makes NDs eligible for obtaining license.
Enroll for a postgraduate residency programme: residency could take 1-2years. NDs are privileged to work with adept professionals in naturopathic medicine.
At this point, fresh graduates of naturopathic medicine, work with patients under close supervision of expert naturopathic medical doctors (NMDs).
Obtain licensure: there is no universal procedure or requirement for obtaining a license in naturopathic medicine, as procedures differ according to states. However, passing the NPLEX and residency is sacrosanct.
I would like to reiterate that NDs are doctors, they obtain a doctorate degree in naturopathic medicine, after attending naturopathic medical school.
Like medical doctors, naturopathic doctors get around 1500 hours training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, clinical physical diagnosis, genetics, pharmacology, microbiology, and other clinical science topics.
NDs also go hundreds of hours training in core methods of naturopathy, like botanical/herbal medicine, traditional Asian medicine, acupuncture, counseling, homeopathy, physical medicine, hydrotherapy, and clinical nutrition.
The curricula of a naturopathic medical school varies but there are courses common to all.
Accredited courses in a naturopathic medical school
All courses taught in a naturopathic medical school, must be accredited by the CNME. In the course of studying, a naturopathic medical student is expected to cover courses, such as ;
- Health psychology
- Clinical laboratory diagnosis
- Spinal evaluation and management
- Botanical medicine
Health psychology: the student will be expected to learn about the role mental health plays, in total wellness and how to manage these disorders in a primary care setting.
Clinical laboratory diagnosis: students must grow familiar with common laboratory tests that can support diagnosis and treatment.
Spinal evaluation and management: students are expected to engage in the continuous practice of examining the spine and its related anatomy as well as diagnosing and treating simple abnormalities.
Botanical medicine: study how medicinal plants can be selected, prepared, and administered to promote wellness and treat health issues.
The general courses, however, cover anatomy and physiology, patient care, clinical sciences and naturopathic treatment modalities.
Very importantly, naturopathic students also complete clinical rotations at teaching, community, and specialty clinics. They begin with this step, then progress to treating patients but under supervision.
The average physician performs an entirely different role or would not be as patient as an ND in terms of consulting. The similarity between the duo, is that they are doctors, can attend to patients, issue prescriptions and are interested in the wellbeing of their patients. However, there are major differences between the two.
The difference between an ND and an MD
MD is the acronym for a Medical doctor while ND stands for a Naturopathic doctor. The goal of the contrast is not intended to glorify or abase one over the other. It is just to draw a fine line of demarcation.
The duties of a naturopathic doctor differs from that of a medical doctor for these reasons;
- The focus of an ND is to ensure that a patient is totally cured, an MD attempts to combat the disease.
- NDs spend between 30 and 60minutes with visiting patients, MDs could spend a minimum of 15minutes.
- NDs resort to diet, herb, exercise and other alternative treatments, MDs prescribe pharmaceutical products.
- NDs perform a holistic treatment, however, MDs treat one condition at a time.
- Follow up/Check up for patients of a naturopathic doctor are consistent and frequent, this does not apply with MDs.
- MD students see hospital-based patients during their rotations, ND students see patients in primarily out-patient clinical settings at naturopathic clinics.
Naturopathic doctors and Medical doctors are valuable assets in the field of medicine. In fact, the presence of both is ideal for a patient.
Naturopathic medicine is beneficial, however, not all universities are accredited for the Naturopathic school of medicine. Nonetheless, I will be making a list of accredited naturopathic medical schools, below:
- National University of Natural medicine (NUNM), Portland, Oregon.
- Canadian College of Naturopathic medicine (CCNM), Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
- National University of Health Sciences (NUH), Lombard.
- Bastyr University (BU), Seattle, Washington and San Diego, California.
- Boucher Institute of Naturopathic medicine (BINM), British Colombia
- Southwest College of Naturopathic medicine & Health sciences (SCNM), Tempe, Arizona.
FAQs about How to become a naturopathic doctor
Here are a few frequently asked questions about How to become a naturopathic doctor.
- Are ND and NMD the same?
Yes, they are. Naturopathic doctors (ND) are medical doctors too, because they employ natural methods they are not referred to as MDs ordinarily but as Naturopathic Medical Doctors (NMD).
- Is an ND the same as a Naturopath?
No. Absolutely, not. An ND is a professional and has been licensed to practice naturopathic medicine, after obtaining a degree from a naturopathic medical school accredited by the CNME and passing the NPLEX as well as completing residency.
A Naturopath on the other hand are not licensed physcians, thus cannot be likened to an NMD or ND.
- Can I run the naturopathic degree programme online?
A host of training for naturopathy, have been made available online. Most of them take 1-3months to issue a certificate but this will not qualify you for the practice of naturopathic medicine. Many people who get their training online call themselves ‘naturopaths’.
They are in fact, not licensed nor fit for practice. All naturopathic medical schools must be accredited by the CNME.
It is advisable to make a choice from the list of the accredited naturopathic medical schools above.
- Is there a standard requirement for obtaining naturopathic license?
Basically, to be eligible for licensure you must have completed 4-years in a naturopathic medical school, passed the postdoctorate board exam, and completed a residency.
There is, however no universal requirement for obtaining a naturopathic license.
- Is naturopathy a lucrative career?
Yes, it is. The average salary for a naturopathic physician in the United States is around $73,960 per year.
The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges estimates that NDs on average earn $90,000 per year.
A naturopathic doctor’s income is determined by the years of experience, specialty type, and location of the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, naturopathic doctors can expect job growth of 9-13% between the years 2014 and 2024.
- Where can a naturopathic doctor work?
Naturopathic doctors can work in a wide variety of clinical settings, including hospitals, community health centers, private practices, and clinics.
- How long does it take to become a naturopathic doctor?
It takes 8-10 years in total. You spend four years acquiring a bachelor’s degree in a medical-related field, another four years acquiring a degree as a Naturopathic doctor, and 1-2years in residency. It’s a long time, but it is a step-by-step process.
- Final Thoughts on how to become a naturopathic doctor
You have learned what naturopathy is and what it takes to become a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND). It is a rigorous process and an earnest career, however, it is profitable.