Question: I moved here a couple of years ago and I am still on the waiting list for a family doctor.
Someone I know is in the same position and has said that seeing a naturopath, combined with a walk-in clinic, has worked pretty well for her. Can you explain what you do for a person in my position?
Answer: NDs have eight years of post-secondary education. During the four-year, 4,500-hour naturopathic medical program, NDs study the medical sciences, including lab diagnosis (ability to order and interpret bloodwork), disease diagnosis, counselling skills taught by a psychologist, basic pharmacology similar to that studied by an MD and then naturopathic therapiesm including clinical nutrition, botanical (herbal) medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture and physical therapies.
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NDs do not currently have direct access to public labs but can have blood drawn and sent to a private lab in Ontario. We spend 1.5 hours with someone during a first visit so we can help identify and organize health concerns. We are trained to recognize emergencies and to refer you appropriately to a whole range of health-care practitioners.
Our knowledge is broad so we often act as co-ordinators of your care. We can also help you come up with a short list to discuss with the doctor at a walk-in clinic.
Question: I see a nurse practitioner and a naturopathic doctor. Is there any hope of NDs being covered by the province like NPs?
Answer: There has not been any commitment made to NDs being covered through health care.
We need legislation defining education and scope of practice, as well as a defined regulatory process before the naturopathic profession could request to explore that possibility.
Question: My daughter saw you and she thinks she might like to study to be an ND. She is in her first year of science at UPEI. The program is very expensive and I am wondering if you would have any advice for her?
Answer: Naturopathic medicine does tend to attract people based on its philosophy. Finances are a reality of life and can create a lot of stress, especially if a mate also has a lot of debt. I know of NDs who are struggling and others who are thriving, not unlike other very educated professionals.
So, I would do a business plan and talk to some other NDs before you make the decision to enrol. I love my profession and it is still blossoming.
I think the people who know right from the start that they need to address their practice as a business will best be able to pay off their debt and make a living.
Kali Simmonds, ND is a doctor of naturopathic medicine who practices in Charlottetown. The information provided is not intended to diagnose or substitute the advice of a health-care professional. Please consult with a health-care provider before making any changes. She welcomes questions for this column, which is published the first Tuesday of the month in The Guardian. She can be reached by mail at 34 Queen St., Charlottetown, C1A 4A3 or by email at email@example.com.