What is the scope of a Naturopathic Physician?
Naturopathic physicians became recognized as primary care physicians in 2009 when the BC Ministry of Health approved a new set of regulations (BC Naturopathic Association. Primary care in BC: NDs Help Find Patients Unable to Find a GP 2017. http://www.bcna.ca/2017/04/primary-care-bc-nds-help-patients-unable-find-gp/. Accessed June 15/18).
Naturopathic Physicians are one of only two professions that are allowed to use the term ‘Physician’ in BC. The only other profession allowed to use this term is medical doctors.
Naturopathic Physicians are required by our college to follow a standard of care that includes physical exams, blood work, a complete medical history, and imaging (if necessary) to come up with our diagnosis. Some NDs use other means of assessment, however these are to be used as information gathering tools and not as diagnostic procedures.
Naturopathic Physicians have the largest scope of practice out of any health care provider in British Columbia. Most Naturopathic Physicians in BC can prescribe pharmaceutical drugs (additional rigorous examinations must be passed to have this privilege). All Naturopathic Physicians can write lab requisitions. Naturopathic physicians can also give IVs and injections, practice acupuncture, perform spinal manipulations (ie. chiropractic adjustments), take blood samples, perform minor surgery (eg. mole removal, stitches), perform PAP exams, prostate exams, and annual physical exams.
Despite being recognized as primary care providers by the government, two big obstacles Naturopathic Physicians face are incomplete access to certain diagnostic tests such as x-rays, MRI, and CT scans, and the inability to access information on PharmaNet (BC Naturopathic Association. Primary care in BC: NDs Help Find Patients Unable to Find a GP 2017. http://www.bcna.ca/2017/04/primary-care-bc-nds-help-patients-unable-find-gp/. Accessed June 15, 2018). Our college is working hard to permit us to have access to these, however in the meantime serious conditions that require these specific diagnostic tests are referred out to physicians that can access these.
There is a lot more research about natural medicine now and Naturopathic Physicians are required to use evidence based natural medicine as their first line of treatment. Natural medicine has been around for an extremely long time, and there are some medicines that do not yet have a lot of research but have been proven to work throughout years of case reports.
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a mode of primary health care that emphasizes disease prevention as well as correction of underlying pathology (College of Naturopathic Physicians of BC, 2006). It is not a quick fix or magic wand that will make all of your symptoms disappear overnight. Naturopathic Medicine is based on the fact that the body is constantly trying to repair itself and achieve health. Naturopathic physicians spend a lot of time with their patients to determine when the body became out of balance, and give them tools to return to a state of health.
Naturopathic physicians attend post-secondary school for 8 years, spending the last two years of school seeing hundreds of patients in different clinical settings. In addition to pharmaceutical prescriptions and lab testing that your MD typically does, NDs are also trained in botanical medicine, diet and lifestyle counseling, IV therapy, injections, and acupuncture, among other modalities.
Aren’t Naturopathic doctors the same thing as homeopaths?
People always ask me this so I would like to explain the difference. Naturopathic Physicians are licensed primary care providers and are regulated by the Ministry of Health and the Health Professions Act (HPA). Other professions that are regulated under the HPA include: medical doctors, dentists, chiropractors, pharmacists, massage therapists, etc.
Homeopaths are not currently licensed and regulated in BC and are not able to write lab requisitions or pharmaceutical prescriptions. The education they receive varies because it is not standardized. Naturopathic Physicians all must have at least 8 years post-secondary education and pass rigorous board exams prior to being able to practice.
Naturopathic physicians learn about homeopathy, however it is only one of the many treatments we can prescribe and some NDs don’t even use homeopathy at all. I do not want to discount homeopathy or homeopathic practitioners because many people notice massive changes from using certain remedies, however I think it is important that people know the difference between the two professions.
Thank you for taking time to read this article. Naturopathic Physicians can be part a large part of your health team for yearly physicals (including PAP exams), pharmaceutical prescriptions or prescription refills, preventative medicine, and natural treatments for acute and chronic conditions.