How would you like to be treated without feeling pain or undergoing surgery? Well, there is a solution in naturopathic medicine. Essentially, naturopathic doctors are involved in offering treatment regimens that do not involve surgery or drugs. In other words, these doctors use practices that span centuries as well as old philosophy that nature is the best healer to manage various conditions. In addition, they also subscribe to the contemporary advances in research. However, naysayers have always had a lingering doubt regarding their place in the medical area. Many of these people wrongfully believe that naturopathic doctors are not real doctors. In fact, they even gone ahead and labeled them ‘frauds’. But there are various evidences that prove that naturopathic doctors are indeed genuine, certified doctors.
They undergo all the rigors that your conventional doctors undergo. From their education to various certifications that are conferred upon them, naturopathic doctors are indeed qualified.
To say that the kind of education that naturopathic doctors are subjected to is rigorous is an understatement. Their education is unique in the sense that they are required to study two approaches to medicine-natural and conventional medicine. These doctors attend a four-year graduate program in recognized institutions. During the four years, they will be taught in various subjects. First of all, they will spend their first two years studying basic sciences. This period will entail them learning about the various molecules that enter into the body and the subsequent manipulation that the molecules will undergo in a subject called Biochemistry. In addition, they will study the various parts of the human body in a program called Anatomy. Moreover, prospective naturopathic doctors will learn about microorganisms in nature in a subject called Microbiology. Also, naturopathic doctors do learn a bit of Physiology during this period. Essentially, naturopathic doctors are exposed to knowledge regarding basic sciences during their first two years in a medical college.
Naturopathic doctors also have to train in clinical sciences for a period of two years. During this period, they will learn things that involve the wellbeing of the reproductive system of females in an area known as gynecology. They are also equipped with knowledge in oncology, which is the study of cancer related issues. Additionally, naturopathic doctors are trained in heart diseases in a subject called cardiology.
Well, that’s just half the story. After a naturopathic doctor finishes the two studies, they are also introduced to alternative medicine techniques. They learn these alternative approaches through subjects such as homeopathy, acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Further, the doctors also learn the treatment of diseases using diet and plants also known as botanical medicine.
For one to become qualified in this area, they also need to do two years of practical studies in an area that interests them. As if this is not enough, they will further need to pass exams in these practical. Therefore, a naturopathic doctor studies for a total of four years. Two of those years are spend doing theoretical studies while the other two are used for practical purposes. After the four years elapse, one is conferred with a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree.
The above-mentioned four year program can only be undertaken in a medical school. Just like every other course, the school has to be accredited by the relevant bodies. In the North America region, there are a few colleges that have been certified to offer this course. Actually, they are seven in number. They include:
- University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine (UBCNM), Bridgeport, CT
- Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM), Tempe, AZ
- National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM), Portland, OR
- Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), Toronto, ON, Canada
- Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM),Vancouver, BC, Canada
- Bastyr University California, San Diego, CA
- Bastyr University, Kenmore, WA
Internship and Preceptorship
After finishing class work, naturopathic program students are required to do internships and preceptorship. A preceptorship is a program that allows a student to observe the happenstances that go on in clinical settings. It is a mandatory part of the curriculum before one can finally graduate to be called a naturopathic doctor. According to various institutions, preceptorship should only be conducted in the presence of a qualified doctor. The major work of the student here is to observe the interaction between the preceptor (the doctor) and the patient. This way, they are able to learn exactly how one should conduct the business.
After the preceptorship, a student is also required to do an internship. This one can be arranged in the last year of the study depending on the student. This is an opportunity that naturopathic students use to put the knowledge that they acquired in class into practice. Normally, internship is done inside the institution or sometimes outside the institution at which point it is called externship. The purpose of such a program is to allow a student to apply all the knowledge that they have learnt in class into a real-life situation. Students also do the internship under supervision by a qualified health practitioner. In line with the accreditation requirements of the institution that the student learns in, they are supposed to do certain hours of preceptorship/internship for them to become qualified naturopathic doctors.
Board Exams and Certification
When we said that the process of becoming a naturopathic doctor is rigorous we meant rigorous. This is because naturopathic doctors are required to pass at least three board exams. The first two board exams are done in school. Here, they are compelled to sit for board exams that are set by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). The CNME is the body that sets and regulates all the educational standards of naturopathic medicine offering colleges. Its exams are taken by the students after completion of every course i.e. basic sciences and clinical sciences.
One would think that after completing the entire coursework curriculum, a naturopathic doctor would just go somewhere and start practicing. Far from it. Instead, they are required to seek certification. They can only be certified after sitting for and passing an examination known as the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations. This thorough examination is only given by North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE). Most importantly, these examinations are only given to one after NABNE has determined that one graduated from a certified naturopathic college. And the accreditation of the said college must have been done by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME).
In Canada, provincial law is used to regulate the practice of naturopathic medicine in five provinces. This law is applied in provinces such as Saskatchewan, Ontario, Alberta, British Colombia and Manitoba. There is also Nova Scotia in this category except that it offers Title Protection. Under the provincial rules and regulations, it is imperative that a naturopathic doctor holds a graduate degree from an accredited medical school. This degree should have been done in not less than four years with rigorous board examinations to boot.
In the province of Ontario, this medicine has been controlled since early 1990s. But then the legislature formulated an Act known as the Naturopathy Act in 2015, which gives naturopathic doctors more powers. Naturopathic doctors are provincially regulated by the College of Naturopaths of Ontario. In British Columbia, the Naturopathic Physicians Act has been in place since 1936, but it has only recently been modified to conform to the dynamics of this area of medicine. The College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia (CNPBC) is responsible for the provincial regulation of naturopathic doctors in this region. Further, the remaining regions also have their provincial regulatory bodies. So, just like medical doctors, naturopathic doctors are regulated by relevant bodies.
Mandated Continuing Education
In order to maintain their licensure, then naturopathic doctors are required to have continuous education. This is in a bid to maintain competence. Also, it enables these doctors to offer their patients with latest naturopathic treatments as well as assure the public. Such continuous educations vary with respective colleges. The continuous education is divided into categories that account for a certain hours of the program. Basically, the naturopathic doctor is required to assimilate latest knowledge in this field through activities such as various seminars, lecture endeavors and for prescribing ones, seminars with the certifying authority. So at the end of the day, you realize that naturopathic doctors are very qualified judging by this activity.
Certification in Complimentary Modalities
Certification in complementary medicine such as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, and massage therapy is essential. When a naturopathic doctor passes the board examination, they are also required to pass separate examinations in fields such as the above-mentioned ones. According to the opinion shapers in this area of medicine, this kind of diversity enables the naturopathic doctors to combat various diseases. There are professional bodies for the different complimentary modalities whose function is to assist with the licensure process. Thus, a naturopathic doctor who has also diversified into acupuncture, homeopathy, massage therapy or whichever modality is totally qualified.
Clearly, naturopathic doctors are very qualified. In fact some of them are overqualified. These physicians are just like the conventional ones. They undergo very intensive training program that I believe a lot of people have fallen by the wayside before they complete them. Therefore, people should not slate them because of their qualifications because we have just demystified the myth.