Licensure for Naturopathic Doctors

It's time for all states to pass legislation to license naturopathic doctors. Let's establish the laws that create minimum standards that give health care consumers the chance to choose naturopathic doctors to put on their health care teams if they want to.
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I have been a practicing naturopathic doctor (ND) for the past 27 years, most of that time in Connecticut, where I enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of state licensure and a busy practice. Each day when I go to work, I get in the car in Massachusetts and drive about 30 miles to my office, because the state of Massachusetts, where I live, does not license NDs.

After 18 years of legislative effort, countless hours educating state senators and representatives with information about our training, education, scope of practice and more, the Massachusetts Legislature passed bill S.2377, an act relevant to the registration of naturopathy, and esteemed Governor Deval Patrick had the opportunity to sign it into law. Sadly, citing administrative difficulties, he chose to veto this bill last week. We will be back in the next session to address the administrative concerns!

Naturopathic physicians combine the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Steeped in traditional healing methods, principles and practices, naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. By using protocols that minimize the risk of harm, naturopathic physicians help facilitate the body's inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. It is the naturopathic physician's role to identify and remove barriers to good health by helping to create a healing internal and external environment.

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) work in private practices, hospitals, clinics, and community health centers. Some NDs choose other career routes as researchers, writers, educators and medical providers to the underserved through organizations like Natural Doctors International.

Currently, there are 17 states that license naturopathic doctors in this country. Here's the list: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, plus the District of Columbia and United States Territories, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. At the time of this writing, many other states are in legislative efforts.

Licensing NDs makes good sense. Consumers seek doctor-level practitioners of natural medicine. With our shortage of primary care doctors, naturopathic doctors can help fill the gap. Naturopathic doctors attend four years of college and complete the same prerequisites one needs for any medical school. We attend four-year, in-residence, full-time naturopathic medical schools and have thousands of hours of clinical work incorporated into our post-graduate education. We do not do major surgery. See my previous post "Roots of Naturopathic Medicine" for further description of Naturopathic medicine philosophy.

The Council for Naturopathic Medical Education, recognized by the Federal Department of Education, oversees ND medical school training. Naturopathic licensing examinations administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners must be passed, both in the basic sciences and in the more clinical aspects of patient care before a graduate can apply for licensure.

NDs are involved with cutting edge research both in the laboratory and in the clinic on the efficacy of natural medicines. Naturopathic doctors have been members of the advisory boards of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Institute of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Naturopathic medical students are eligible for federal student loans to help finance their education. Many naturopathic doctors have written best-selling books and consult with industry on cost-saving approaches to both the prevention and treatment of chronic health complaints. We have been at the forefront of promoting proper nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and healthy lifestyles. We work at integrative health centers alongside medical colleagues. We are trained to both refer out and accept referrals for additional diagnostic and treatment support, and many of us do regularly.

It's time for all states to pass legislation to license naturopathic doctors. Let's establish the laws that create minimum standards that give health care consumers the chance to choose naturopathic doctors to put on their health care teams if they want to. Let's give the naturopathic doctors who have put effort into attaining a state-of-the-art education and training the opportunity to bring that expertise to communities across this county. Let's create a medical system that has a broader vision, including the licensure of naturopathic doctors.

To find a naturopathic doctor in your area, see the AANP website here.

For more by Amy Rothenberg, N.D., click here.

For more on natural health, click here.

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