Saturday, August 7, 2010

Choosing the ND Generalist

Naturopathic Doctors in Canada (and the States where ND’s are a regulated practice) have worked hard to maintain a large scope of practice that includes extensive training in conventional biomedical sciences as well as alternative medical techniques. Until recently I have always wondered why someone would want to give up that freedom for a focused discipline that often requires the same years of post secondary schooling, like a registered dietitian or a chiropractor, when these modalities and corresponding scope of practice are already included within naturopathic medicine.

I realize that there are many good reasons (too many to write about here) why people choose to become a focused health care practitioner, not least of which is a positive personal experience with a certain health care professional or the goal of helping people with specific health concerns. Also, many students may not know their options including the fact that most just do not know what naturopathic doctors are trained to do. Although I am very proud of the ND’s scope of practice, and recognize the privilege to have my training, I now perceive one potential advantage to being a focused specialist... Might the patient’s problems be simpler?

This may not be the case at all but in the last month I have developed a small degree of wishful envy for practitioners who see patients that are presenting with concerns associated with a particular health focus, be it dietary, musculoskeletal problems or emotional issues. It just seems like it might not be as messy! Maybe that is part of the appeal?

In contrast, and without going into specific details, people visiting naturopathic doctors may have anything wrong with them - anything; and it may be somewhat illusive even to conventional medicine. Dr. Bernard Lown, MD writes in his book The Lost Art of Healing; Practicing Compassion in Medicine, “At present, about 25 percent of patients who visit an American doctor are successfully treated. The other 75 percent have problems that scientific medicine finds difficult to resolve. After being shuffled among a bevy of specialists and subjected to costly and invasive technologies, many patients, frustrated, turn away from conventional medicine.”

There is certainly an important place for every practitioner and every patient deserves the opportunity to be treated in the way that is best for them. Coincidentally, I am beginning to understand that with a large scope of practice comes the potential for patients with a greater degree of complicated health problems. This is the challenge of helping these people that puts those brief moments of wishful envy into perspective. Thank God I love reading because I certainly spend a lot of time researching for my patients! And, sometimes simple solutions do work even for the complicated problems.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with a health issue, do not wait until conventional medicine becomes frustrating to see a naturopathic doctor. It is important for ND’s to be able to work with conventional medicine where appropriate to the best benefit of the patient. It doesn’t matter how complicated your case might seem, ND’s will take the time investigate your concerns including asking the right questions and listening to your answers.