How to Become a Naturopathic Doctor

Overview

According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, naturopathic doctors practice a distinct method of primary healthcare. They diagnose and treat patients and work to prevent illness by using natural therapies. Naturopathic physicians emphasize an individual’s inherent self-healing process by using a combination of modern, traditional, scientific and empirical methods. They also emphasize identifying and removing the underlying cause of an illness, rather than just dealing with symptoms.

A naturopathic doctor will strive to use methods and medicines that minimize the harmful risk of side effects.. They also treat their patients as a whole by taking into consideration their emotional, environmental and social needs as well as their physical, genetic and environmental concerns. Naturopathic doctors typically encourage patients to learn about their own health issues, focus on disease prevention and take responsibility for their own health. Requirements to become a naturopathic doctor vary widely, since some states have licensing requirements for naturopathic physicians, while in other states the title naturopathic doctor can be used regardless of the individual’s level of education. Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine, designated ND or NMD, are represented by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP).

Work Environment

Naturopathic physicians may work in hospitals, clinics, community health centers and in private practice. They treat a wide range of medical conditions including chronic pain, allergy, obesity, chronic fatigue and fertility problems. While naturopathic physicians are trained in prescription drugs and can dispense them, they emphasize natural healing agents as opposed to medications.

Requirements

Education

Individuals trained as traditional naturopathic physicians can become educated with little or no class time. Typically these programs are online. However, naturopathic doctors educated in this way are not considered qualified physicians. Those who attend an accredited four-year school can graduate as a naturopathic doctor (ND). The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education defines a core set of topics that form the basis for the Naturopathic Physician course of studies at several accredited school in North America. They include acupuncture; traditional Chinese medicine; botanical medicine; homeopathy; therapies based on exposure to natural elements; nutrition; physical medicine; and psychological counseling.

The College of Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut offers a program that includes a teaching clinic and an autism clinic to provide hands-on experience. Students have clinical rotations and work under the guidance of clinical faculty in such areas as Personalized Medicine, Mind-Body Medicine, Pediatrics, Physical Medicine, Homeopathy and Integrative Oncology. The program also affords students the opportunity to work in local hospitals and community clinics. The National University of Health Sciences in Illinois also offers a Doctor of Naturopathy program that prepares students in ten trimesters completed in three years and four months. The trimesters are divided into three phases of study: the basic sciences, clinical services and clinical practice. Students are provided with a comprehensive education in human biology and anatomy in the first phase, and they have the opportunity for hands-on training in diagnosis and treatment in the second and third phases.

Licensing

In the United States, 17 states and the District of Columbia require Naturopathic Doctors to use the designation of ND or NMD only if they received training at an accredited school of naturopathic medicine. In other states, the designation naturopath, naturopathic doctor or doctor of natural medicine are used without regard to the individual’s educational level. Each state also defines the scope of practice for Naturopathic Doctors.

Skills and Qualities

Naturopathic physicians require a strong desire to help patients and they should be able to empathize and motivate them through good communication. They benefit from establishing a strong rapport with patients and inspiring confidence. Naturopathic physicians need strong problem-solving skills, and they should hold the principles of naturopathic medicine in high regard.

Salary

According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for physicians in 2010 was more than $166,400 per year or $80.00 per hour.           

Job Outlook

According to the U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for physicians is expected to be an increase of 24 percent, faster than the average for all other professions. An aging population is a factor in this expected increase.

Related Reading

Further Reading

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