For example, we are trained to give massages but not like Registered Massage Therapists who study massage exclusively for 2 years. We don’t receive 4 straight years of acupuncture training as a doctor of Chinese Medicine does. We don’t have as many in-class live homeopathy cases as Homeopaths do, we don’t know as much about nutrition as a Registered Dietitian or Registered Holistic Nutritionist, we don’t have as much training in botanical therapies as an Herbalist, aren’t as seasoned in lifestyle counselling as a trained psychotherapist and we only really get a taste of manipulation, which is nothing compared to how extensively a chiropractor is trained.
So, while I should probably be shutting my big mouth about all this, considering the fact I am training to become a naturopathic doctor and should really be blogging about how great NDs are, I have to admit that my classmates and I asked ourselves, “why see an ND?” Surely if what you are seeking is acupuncture, homeopathy, advice on botanical tinctures and supplements, counselling, nutritional advice or massage you can open up your Yellow Pages and find a practitioner that specializes in any one of those modalities. You shouldn’t have to bother with seeing an ND at all, right?
Great God, why am I shelling out $20,000 a year in tuition??!
After careful thought we came up with this: a naturopathic doctor works as a Primary Care provider. We are the “GP”s of natural, alternative medicine and serve as the gateway to a patient’s health. If you are experiencing shortness of breath and fatigue, what do you do? Do you visit a cardiologist? Maybe you have anemia. Or maybe it’s a fungus? Sweet Buddha, maybe it’s LUNG CANCER, better head straight to an oncologist! (You also wonder if you’re simply out of shape. Maybe deciding to train for a marathon in under a month was a little too ambitious of you). How do you decide where to go when experiencing a symptom that could indicate a problem with any number of bodily systems?
Easy, you go to your GP, or your primary care provider, to be evaluated.
He or she is trained to do the following:
- Provide you with preventive care and teach you healthy lifestyle choices
- Identify and treat your condition
- Assess the urgency of your medical problem and direct you to the best place for that care, if necessary
- Make referrals to specialists when necessary
As naturopaths, we are trained to identify the cause of the symptoms our patient experiences (through history taking, physical exam, diagnostic testing, and generating a list of differential diagnoses) and, because we are trained in the medical sciences, we are also able to understand the process of the disease a patient presents with. We know what is going on in the body and where we need to intervene. We create an individualized treatment plan by following a hierarchy of treatment options that interfere as little as possible with the body’s natural healing abilities.
Because we are extensively trained in our modalities we are able to administer treatment to our patients ourselves as well as take part in every step of the patient’s healing process. However, if necessary, we are also trained to recognize when the patient will fare better under the care of a more specialized practitioner (or even medical doctor) and are able to recommend a referral.
There is another saying: “everything looks like a nail to a hammer”, which means that every healthcare practitioner is under the bias that your condition can only be treated using their own treatment methods. For example, to an acupuncturist, your condition can only be treated by acupuncture, to a chiropractor, you are in need of spinal adjustment and a nutritionist will most likely see your problems as dietary. NDs can diagnose your condition taking into account your unique combination of symptoms, treating your whole person, and focussing on eliminating the cause of disease, using the least invasive therapies available.