What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of primary health care that combines modern
scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. It is founded upon three basic approaches - stimulating the healing power of the body, treating the underlying cause of disease(s) and preventing disease and illness. Naturopathic treatments, whether for the treatment of acute or chronic conditions, is based on the individual patient – their physiological, psychological, social, spiritual, environment and lifestyle factors.
An individualized treatment plan may include clinical nutrition, lifestyle changes, botanical medicine, vitamin and mineral therapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), intravenous or injectable therapies and pharmaceuticals. In Canada, the Naturopathic Medical profession’s infrastructure includes accredited educational institutions, professional licensing, national standards of practice, participation in many federal health committee initiatives, and a commitment to state-of-the-art scientific research.
What are Naturopathic Physicians?
Naturopathic Doctors, NDs, are trained as primary care physicians to perform full, head-to-toe, physical exams, woman health exams including Pap smears and breast exams, male health exams including prostate and testicular exams. They may request and refer to diagnostic laboratory test results and imaging results just like those your family physician or general practitioner would requisition. Naturopathic physicians also refer patients to specialists and for urgent care. They have been licensed in British Columbia for nearly 90 years.
Like conventional medical doctors, dentists, or chiropractors, to become a Naturopathic Physician, NDs must first complete their pre-medical studies at university. The Naturopathic student then enters into a four-year, full-time medical program at an accredited school of Naturopathic Medicine where the first two years parallel that of conventional medical school and, the last two years are spent honing in on the natural methods of treatments that Naturopathic Physicians use. In the last two years, Naturopathic students also work in a clinical setting under the supervision of licensed Naturopathic Doctors, seeing patients before entering into practice. Graduates receive the title “N.D.” or Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.
Is Naturopathic Medicine covered by MSP?
Provincial subsidies for Naturopathic Medicine were cut by the liberal government on January 1, 2002. At present, there is no MSP coverage available for visits to an ND unless you are on premium assistance. For patients on premium assistance, there is limited coverage.
Most extended health plans (i.e., private plans usually through your employer) do cover visits to NDs. Most plans pay 80% of patient visits but make sure you clarify coverage with your benefits manager.
How are NDs Different From MDs?
A Naturopathic Physician is trained in the methods of treatment commonly referred to as "alternative medicine". When you see an ND for your health care, treatments may include clinical nutrition, exercise therapy, lifestyle modification, botanical medicine, vitamin and mineral therapy, manual manipulation or physical therapies. If, and when needed, your Naturopathic Physician may refer you for further assessment. Your Naturopathic Doctor will work with you to determine the best possible treatments available including those traditionally provided by specialists such as cardiologists, allergists, pulmonary specialists, etc.
Can I see an MD who is also an ND?
No. In BC, doctors must be licensed as either an MD or an ND. They cannot be licensed as both at once.
What conditions/illnesses do Naturopathic Doctors treat?
Naturopathic doctors are primary health care practitioners. They are trained to treat virtually all health concerns from acute to chronic, pediatric to geriatric and physical to psychological. Naturopathic doctors work with three main groups of people:
1) Patients who are looking for disease prevention and health promotion;
2) Patients with a range of health concerns and no clear diagnosis; and,
3) Patients with chronic and severe illnesses.
What are typical visits to a Naturopathic Doctor like?
The first appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor is about 1-1½ hours long and subsequent appointments are from 20 minutes to 1 hour in length depending on your specific health concerns and your Naturopathic Doctor. Typically, during the initial visits, your Naturopathic Physician will take a detailed history of your current and past health concerns, conduct a physical exam and use information from laboratory tests to make an assessment and diagnosis. With the patient’s input, a personalized treatment plan will be proposed to help facilitate achieving his or her health goals.
What is the training required to become a Naturopathic Doctor?
To obtain a Naturopathic Medical credential (ND) that qualifies the recipient to sit for licensing examination, students must:
Take prerequisites including three years of pre-medical sciences at a University achieving a cumulative grade point average of 3.00 or above on a four-point scale. Prerequisite courses include biology, biochemistry, chemistry, organic chemistry, introductory psychology, and humanities.
Successfully complete a four-year, full-time program in an accredited school of Naturopathic Medicine that includes more than 4,500 hours of classroom training and 1,500 hours of supervised clinical experience.
Pass NPLEX board exams that are written after the 2nd and 4th years of study. NPLEX is the standard examination used by all licensing jurisdictions for Naturopathic doctors in North America.
Meet the Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits as required by the provincial regulatory boards on an ongoing basis
What areas of training do Naturopathic Physicians receive?
Naturopathic Doctors undergo training similar to medical doctors plus they include the naturopathic disciplines. The four areas of training in the four years, full-time Naturopathic Medicine curriculum are:
Basic Sciences – This area of study includes anatomy, physiology, histology, microbiology, biochemistry, immunology, pharmacology and pathology.
Clinical Disciplines – Diagnostic medicine areas of study are physical and clinical diagnosis, differential and laboratory diagnosis, radiology, naturopathic assessment, and orthopedics.
Naturopathic Disciplines – There are six major disciplines that define the areas of naturopathic practice. Each discipline is a distinct area of practice and includes diagnostic principles and practices, as well as, therapeutic skills and techniques. They include clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, hydrotherapy, naturopathic manipulation and lifestyle counselling.
Clinical Experience – All students must complete 1,500 hours of clinical requirements and demonstrate proficiency in all aspects of Naturopathic Medicine prior to graduation.