What is so great about naturopathic doctors? Well, I’m glad you asked, because I want to share 10 things I like the most about NDs.
As a consultant to natural health practice owners, and a former Risk Officer and data management specialist, I have observed the good and the bad in healthcare facilities around the US. Here is my perspective.
Watch this video, or continue reading below.
My interest in serving naturopaths came after experiencing several health crises. When I was pregnant with my first child, my conventional Obstetrician was unsupportive of my birth philosophy and assured me that my birth would require surgery (even though there was no need). So I scrambled to find a home birth midwife who was willing to take me under her care. When I was 31 weeks pregnant, I found a wonderful midwife. And 9 weeks later, I gave birth to a healthy baby in my home.
My home birth midwife introduced me to the world of natural healing. And ever since then, I have had wonderful experiences with naturopaths, chiropractors, and other licensed healers, like 68% of adults in the United States (Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges). Alternative and complementary therapies have provided outcomes that would not have been possible with conventional medical techniques. Read more about my story on the About Me page.
Today, I want to give you the 10 reasons why I appreciate naturopathic doctors so much.
Many naturopaths have a very embracing, supportive, comforting way of drawing patients out. Patients are encouraged to discuss the variety of problems that bring them into the office. I find that many naturopathic doctors have a very warm-hearted and calming personality that is reassuring when you are suffering (which is why most of us go to the doctor in the first place).
Most NDs also spend an enormous amount of time during the first patient visit, much longer than a conventional physician. The average ND patient visit length is 40 minutes (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine Survey), which is more than twice the length of a conventional physician visit of 17 minutes (Medscape Physician Compensation Report).
They are Highly Trained
NDs have a doctorate degree in naturopathic medicine. Although it’s different than a Medical Doctor degree, ND training is substantial. NDs are considered primary care physicians in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians).
In Canada, 5 provinces have regulations for naturopaths (Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors). A World Health Organization study shows that Naturopathy is viewed as an accepted medical practice by a majority of the 129 countries surveyed.
NDs also must pass a rigorous licensure and board exam, and they receive ongoing continuing education and other training. I think that provides a lot of reassurance that this type of practitioner is qualified; they’re not just getting an unrecognized online certificate.
They Have Been There
Many naturopathic doctors enter the medical field after suffering from a condition themselves. Perhaps they endured a condition as a child, or they watched a family member endure conventional treatment, and they realize the benefits of naturopathy and other alternative modalities that the conventional medical world cannot sole. Many NDs have told me that their initial interest in alternative medicine started because of a personal experience. So NDs understand what it’s like to suffer and the journey to seeking relief using natural means.
They Care Deeply
Many “typical” conventional MDs are wonderful people (I’ve met hundreds of doctors in my years of working at hospitals and physician offices). But there’s just something different about naturopaths and natural care healers. They tend to have more compassion, and to want to spend time getting to know their patients. ND visits happen in a much different way than the typical visit with an MD. NDs build relationships much more deeply. They tend to be more sacrificial and giving of their time.
Unfortunately, this “yin approach” to finances has a devastating effect on the bottom line. I work specifically with naturopathic doctors because I know it can be difficult for them to stay profitable. Many ND are very shy about collecting money, and they tend to give services away for free instead of charging based on the value they provide to patients.
They Seek Balance
NDs look for balance in their own lives. Many of them practice yoga and breathing techniques. Many NDs love spending time outdoors with their families, hiking, and going on camping trips. NDs often see a “yin and yang” to every cycle of life, and they can provide great advice on how to re-balance your life in a holistic way.
They Put Family First
Over and over, I speak with naturopathic doctors whose main priority is to take care of their families. They make family a priority, even if that means cutting back office hours or giving up professional aspirations.
A survey of ND practitioners showed that only 30% worked more than full-time hours (40 or more hours a week). Yet 55% of NDs were satisfied with the number of hours they worked, and 21% felt they worked too many hours.
In a survey of 5,000 conventional physicians by AMA Insurance, 85% work over 40 hours a week (62% at 40-60 hours, 23% at 60-80+ hours) (AMA Insurance). Only 15% of conventional doctors said they work less than 40 hours a week.
A similar survey of over 19,000 conventional physicians in 26 specialties showed similar results; 35% of respondents worked over 45 hours a week, and only 11% worked less than 30 hours a week (Medscape Physician Compensation Report).
That’s a really interesting distinction from most naturopathic doctors, who tend to schedule fewer direct patient care visits than their MD counterparts. However, many NDs spend significant time in administration tasks, insurance follow-up, and “uncounted” work time.
They Look at the Whole Picture
Natural health doctors like naturopaths, chiropractors, and other licensed healers look at a patient’s situation holistically. They can see a long-range view and close-up view at the same time. For example, if a patient is suffering from digestive issues and visits a naturopath, the extensive history and physical and discussion about potential root causes can go back as far as your own birth history. This helps the patient become more aware of all potential causes of the symptoms, and conditions they may not even be aware of.
They Recommend a Variety of Options
We like having options. It’s nice to be asked, “Would you rather do this, or that?” Patients of integrative practitioners are often offered several options for treatment; both conventional methods (surgery and drugs) and alternative methods (lifestyle changes, homeopathy, massage, essential oils, chiropractic, etc.).
It’s really important for patients to feel in control, like they’re a partner in the process of their own healing. I think naturopathy brings to the table more than conventional medicine.
They Know Their Limits
Naturopaths are aware of what they are licensed to do. Patients who live in a state like Washington, Oregon, or one of the 17 other states that consider NDs a Primary Care Providers (Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges) have a wide variety of treatment options. NDs in these states have the authority and blessing to provide a wider scope of services. Hopefully more US states and Canadian provinces, and other countries will accept NDs as PCPs.
NDs understand the benefits of combining natural treatments with modern evidence-based scientific rigor. When natural health and conventional medicine are integrated together, patient outcomes improve. Jane Guiltinan, ND (faculty at the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University) wrote a great article called “The Facts About Natural Medicine.”
Sometimes, animosity exists between the two schools of thought. But I think that patients are ultimately better served by an integrative approach (natural healing methods that trust the body), with modern techniques (like surgery, high-tech therapy, and pharmaceuticals).
They Don’t Stop Looking for Answers
The final and most important reason I think naturopathic doctors are incredible is that they keep trying to find solutions. The NDs my family and I have been to as patients, and those with whom I speak with professionally as my clients, have one thing in common: They are committed to helping patients find relief.
Even if the answer to a patient’s suffering isn’t one of their typical recommendation, good naturopaths want to improve the patient’s condition. That could mean looking at surgical and pharmacological ways to provide care, partnering with physicians who offer other modalities, or researching for hours to diagnose the problem more clearly. NDs tend to go much further in supporting patient needs than any other type of doctor I’ve met.
These are the 10 different reasons I think Naturopathic Doctors are amazing. Share your thoughts by commenting below.
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Grace LaConte is a Strategic Risk Expert who helps Complementary and Integrative Health practitioners to find and fix organizational vulnerabilities. Using her experience as a Risk Officer and Director in healthcare and technology companies, Grace shares a refreshingly honest approach to uncovering hidden risks and opportunities. Learn more at http://laconteconsulting.com, or connect with her on Twitter @lacontestrategy.