What is the difference between a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) and a Medical Doctor (MD)?

There are 2 basic differences between these two types of physicians. The first is a difference in philosophy. NDs subscribe to certain tenets which include:

  • First, do no harm;
  • Doctor as teacher;
  • Using the healing power of nature; and
  • Prevention of disease as medicine.

The second difference is in the tools that each physician uses. Most MDs have a pharmacy based practice, whereas NDs will use many tools for healing, including homeopathy, botanical medicine, nutritional medicine, lifestyle counseling, physical medicine, pharmacy, and sometimes acupuncture and massage therapy. In addition, you will typically get more time with an ND when you have an appointment, as we believe it is very important to establish a relationship with our patients and have time to get to know the whole case, including physical, mental, and emotional connections.

What are the training and licensing requirements for an ND?

There are seven accredited naturopathic programs across eight North American campuses. Students must have completed a bachelor’s degree prior to admission, with the ND curriculum encompassing an additional 4-5 years of eduction. During this training, the first 2 years are very similar in credit load and course information to a conventional medical school, which includes anatomy, physiology, pathology, microbiology, etc. The final years are focused on treatment options, philosophy, and clinical training. ND’s do not have hospital training, nor do they do specialty rotations as MD’s do. After graduation, ND’s are required to take a national licensing exam called the NPLEX, and pass it before receiving their state license. Not all states have licensing available for ND’s at this time. Please check out WWW.NATUROPATHIC.ORG for more information.

Can an ND prescribe medication?

Yes, NDs in Washington state have full prescriptive rights, with the exception of Class I, II, and III Narcotics.

Can an ND serve as my primary care physician?

Yes, in Washington state we serve as primary care physicians. However, you will want to check with your insurance, as some insurance plans are managed care (like Kaiser Permanente) and in those systems, we can only serve as specialists, requiring a referral.

What can I expect from my visits?

Your first visit will be approximately 1 hour in length. We will discuss your full history and current symptoms, do a physical exam and put together a plan for you. Most of the visit may seem like a visit to your conventional doctor, as we often use similar assessment techniques. Where the visit will differ is in the treatment plan. We will spend a lot of time reviewing the steps of the treatment and educating you on lifestyle changes that will benefit you.

Will my insurance cover ND care?

That depends. Please call you insurance to verify benefits as all plans are different. Our physicians are preferred providers for many insurance companies. Deductibles and copays may apply.

Will my insurance cover prescribed herbal and nutritional supplements?

No. However, many flex plans are allowing coverage with a doctor’s prescription, which we are happy to supply for you.

What if I need to go to the hospital?

NDs do not have hospital privileges. If we feel you need to be admitted to the hospital, we will either refer you to an MD who can admit you or send you through the ER.

What if I need to reach you after hours for an emergency?

We have a 24 hour pager number and there is always a doctor on call. The pager number is always listed on our main outgoing message for when you need it.

Click here to see more info about our After Hours policies.

Can you serve as my baby's pediatrician?

Our providers are not licensed pediatricians, but they all have experience working with the pediatric population. Our physicians are comfortable serving as the primary care physician for your baby and will always refer if needed to a MD pediatrician or specialist.

Do you give immunizations to babies?

Yes, we carry the state supply of vaccinations and will always have a thorough discussion about vaccinations with all parents. We are happy to go through the routine schedule or devise an alternative schedule that works for you.