What does a Naturopathic Doctor do?

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A naturopathic doctor is a medically trained primary care doctor who has graduated from a 4-year naturopathic medical school. They work with patients in all facets of family health to identify the fundamental causes of disease and offer evidence informed therapies to help ease the body’s ability to restore and maintain optimal health.

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How to Become a Naturopathic Doctor

what does a naturopathic doctor do

Naturopathic medication is a completely different form of primary health care whose focal point is on the whole wellbeing of a patient while accentuating prevention and the process of self-healing through the use of natural therapies. Naturopathic medicine strives to find the primary cause of the patient’s condition rather than focusing only on symptomatic treatment.

To attend a naturopathic medical school, you must earn an undergraduate bachelor’s with prerequisite courses similar to those for traditional medical schools. After completing a bachelor’s degree, you must then apply for a CNME (Council on Naturopathic Medical Education) naturopathic accredited program. Generally, naturopathic schools want to see that you have spent time observing (shadowing) a naturopath or holistic healer. Be sure to document this observation time so you have documentation. Both hands-on and observational health care experience is significant.

Naturopathic schools seek out candidates who are curious, capable, flexible, and imaginative who have empathy and integrity too. As some of the healing techniques used by naturopaths are based in traditional healing methods and a healthy respect for the array of cultures in the world is also needed. Soon-to-be students should also have a strong belief in the effectiveness of natural medicine.

Naturopathic medical schools are four-year programs that require all the same basic sciences as a traditional medical school but students also study holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy. Students usually must undergo a four-year schooling in homeopathic medicine, clinical nutrition, acupuncture, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling. Naturopathic doctors must also pass a board exam (the NPLEX) to be qualified for licensure at the end of their training. Graduates are qualified to practice in any state in which they meet the licensing requirements. Not all states, however, permit naturopathic physicians to be fully licensed but the field is fast gaining recognition and acceptance. Even in states where naturopathic is not entirely recognized, you can still practice but will be restricted to the treatments allowed by the state.

Job Description of a Naturopathic Doctor

A naturopathic doctor is a primary health care provider of naturopathic medicine. They use complementary and alternative therapies together with mainstream medical practice with the aim of treating primary causes of disease while stimulating the body’s own healing abilities. Natural remedies are commonly preferred in favor of pharmaceuticals; a holistic approach is used and several physicians advocate conventional treatments together with naturopathic ones. A naturopathic physician will refer patients to other practitioners if treatment is beyond the naturopathic scope of practice.

Naturopathic doctors work in community health centers, private practices, hospitals, and clinics and can provide individual and family health care. Among the most common illnesses 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. Naturopathic doctors can also perform minor surgeries, namely removing cysts or stitching up superficial wounds. However, they don’t practice major surgery. Naturopathic doctors are trained to make the most of prescription drugs, even though the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents.

A naturopathic doctor may also use diagnostic tests to fully understand their patient’s health condition. Aside from taking time out to carefully and wholly assess a patient’s source of problem, naturopathic doctors understand and speak the language of conventional medicine. They can diagnose just like medical doctors do yet bring to the patient a whole new arsenal of treatments and insights. Instead of waiting for a disease to surface, naturopathic doctor’s work toward it off before it happens.

Naturopathic Doctor Career Video Transcript

Naturopathic doctors and medical doctors share many similarities but have a different approach to medical care for patients. While naturopathic doctors, or NDs, are educated in the same biomedical sciences as medical doctors, NDs use holistic and nontoxic approaches to healing, emphasizing disease prevention, nutrition, and wellness. While medical doctors emphasize treating symptoms, NDs focus on treating the root causes of illness and enlisting the body’s self-healing abilities.

NDs treat patients of all ages, from pediatrics to geriatrics. As with other doctors, NDs interview patients to document symptoms, review a patient’s medical history and make their diagnosis, recommendation and prescription. Instead of prescription drugs, NDs often use naturally occurring remedies that can be found in foods, herbs, and vitamin supplements. They also use alternative therapeutic regimens such as traditional Indian Ayurvedic- or Chinese medicine, homeopathy, mindfulness training, and biofeedback. To clarify a diagnosis, they may order diagnostic procedures and lab tests from other professionals, and consult with other healthcare professionals as needed.

Naturopathic doctors work in private practice, clinics, and in community health centers that offer other alternative medicine practices such as acupuncture, massage, or chiropractic. They attend four-year, graduate-level, naturopathic medical schools where they study anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, pathology, diagnosis, and holistic and nontoxic therapies. Currently, state licensure is available in some states, while other states require NDs to practice under another medical degree.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physicians and Surgeons.

National Center for O*NET Development. 29-1199.04. O*NET OnLine.

AANMC. What is Naturopathic Medicine?.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.