Naturopathic doctors are real doctors, we just think about medicine in a different way than most medical doctors do. We get similar levels of training, and have similar diagnostic and assessment skills, but our system of medicine has a very different grounding philosophy. We think very differently from that of the traditional doctor.
Naturopathic doctors view symptoms of disease and illness as the body attempts to heal itself. We believe that natural therapies should be used first, and drugs and surgeries should only be used if absolutely necessary!
We recognize that health is not just the absence of disease, but the complete mental, emotional, and physical, and we strive to help patients meet their goals in all of those areas. We are highly trained primary health care providers who want to help you get better!
Both NDs and MDs attend 4-year intensive professional programs after completing very similar pre-med courses. Naturopathic colleges require students to have completed an undergraduate degree before starting medical school.
The basic and core clinical sciences that NDs and MDs learn in school are almost identical. Both NDs and MDs get around 1500 hours of training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, clinical physical diagnosis, genetics, pharmacology, microbiology, and other clinical science topics.
We also both learn dermatology, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, radiology, and other clinically focused topics.
As part of our curriculum, NDs complete between 1100 and 1500 hours in a clinical internship where we work with patients to apply our skills and develop treatment plans, the same way a medical doctor would.
Naturopathic doctors also get hundreds of hours of training in our core methods, like botanical/herbal medicine, traditional Asian medicine, acupuncture, counseling, homeopathy, physical medicine, hydrotherapy, and clinical nutrition.
One major difference between NDs and MDs is the number of residencies available. Very few residencies are available for NDs and while more are becoming available, it isn’t a standard part of most NDs’ educations. However, our thousands of hours of combined classroom and clinical training make sure we have the skills and the tools to practice safe, effective, natural medicine!
Naturopathic doctors seeking to get licensed in regulated provinces and states must have written a multi-step, standardized licensing exam called NPLEX. The first part of the exam tests core clinical sciences and is very similar to the USMLE Step 1 Medical Licensing Exam that MDs have to write. The second part of NPLEX is a comprehensive examination of therapeutic modalities and clinical treatments.
Individual provinces and states also have specific licensing exams to make sure we can confidently and safely treat you while following applicable laws. Naturopathic doctors in Ontario and British Columbia can write prescriptions for medications if they have taken and passed an additional pharmacy licensing exam.
In short, no.
‘Naturopath’ is a non-professional term used by unlicensed practitioners. Although some of these practitioners have gone to school to learn about natural healing techniques, their education does not include the rigorous diagnostic and assessment training required to make their practice safe and effective, and certainly does not qualify them to be primary health care providers.
Make sure that your ND is able to show you their degree or diploma in Naturopathic Medicine, their license from a professional regulating body, and evidence of malpractice insurance.