Naturopathic doctors use holistic practices to promote ongoing well-being.
Naturopathic doctor qualifications are different for each state; however, all naturopaths go through extensive medical training and education just as traditional medical doctors do. Naturopaths focus on maintaining health and preventing disease using holistic practices to focus on the whole being — mind, body and spirit. At the end of their coursework, naturopathic doctors must take a board examination called the NPLEX (Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations), which is given by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners.
To become a naturopathic doctor, you must be interested in using a combination of Eastern and Western practices to encourage the maintenance of patients’ overall well-being. Naturopathic medicine involves listening to the body to work with the patient’s natural self-healing powers, getting to the root of an ailment rather than treating symptoms, and avoiding any treatment that causes further harm. Naturopathic doctors do not prescribe pharmaceutical medications; instead, they recommend traditional specialists as necessary. Naturopathic candidates must believe in the value of treating patients holistically.
The Alternative Medicine Foundation states that entry requirements for naturopathic medicine schools are equivalent to those of traditional medical schools. After acceptance, students take four years of graduate-level coursework, which includes practical and clinical experience. According to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, seven cities in the United States and Canada have naturopathic programs: Toronto, Ontario; Vancouver, British Columbia; Phoenix, Arizona; Chicago, Illinois; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Upon completing medical school, naturopathic doctors must take the NPLEX. The first part of the test is the Biomedical Science Examination, which focuses on anatomy, genetics and biochemistry, microbiology and immunology, physiology and pathology. The second part is the Core Clinical Science Examination, which is a case-based test that focuses on diagnosis, nutrition, homeopathy, counseling, psychology, public health, botanical medicine, emergency medicine pharmacology and research. Candidates must pass the Biomedical Science Examination portion of the testing process before taking the Core Clinical Science Examination.
As of 2009, 15 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories license naturopathic doctors. These states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Naturopaths must practice in one of these states or territories.