Q: What kind of training must naturopathic physicians undergo?
A: Naturopathic physicians undergo training that is similar in structure and scope to that of allopathic physicians (MDs) and osteopathic physicians (DOs). Naturopathic medical colleges are four-year graduate schools with rigorous admissions requirements comparable to other medical schools. The Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) degree is awarded after classroom, clinical and practical study. Naturopathic physicians are trained in standard medical sciences including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, embryology, immunology, clinical and physical diagnosis, pharmacology, cardiology, neurology, radiology, minor surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics and dermatology.
The training also includes extensive study of naturopathic philosophy and therapeutics including clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine, hydrotherapy and counseling. Like many states and provinces, Washington’s laws require graduates of naturopathic medical schools to pass rigorous board examinations in order to qualify for licensure. Washington NDs must also complete annual continuing education training to maintain their licenses.
Q: What is the scope of practice for naturopathic physicians?
A: Although all naturopathic physicians are trained to provide primary care and/or specialty care in outpatient settings, the actual scope of practice varies by state. In Washington, NDs are recognized as primary care providers and see patients with acute and chronic conditions and employ all standard conventional diagnostic tools including physical examination, laboratory tests and imaging. The full range of lab tests and physical exams (including PAP smears) is an essential part of ND training and practice. NDs may use additional physical and laboratory procedures to assess nutritional status, metabolic function and/or toxic load, while considerable time may also be spent assessing physical, mental and emotional to assure that any treatment plan is comprehensive.
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