Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are family practice-oriented primary health care doctors. Naturopathic training consists of a four-year, graduate level, accredited naturopathic medical school program. The four existing naturopathic colleges in the US are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, a specialized accreditor recognized by the US Department of Education. Those schools are located in Portland, OR, Kenmore, WA, Scottsdale, AZ, and Bridgeport, CT.
The first two years of schooling are comparable to those of conventional medical doctors (MD). During the first year, the majority of classes focus on the basic sciences including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, cellular biology and histology, and cadaver dissection. After this introductory year, students continue with anatomy and physiology, but add more clinical sciences such as microbiology, pathology, laboratory diagnosis, and clinical/physical diagnosis which instructs on the diagnostic criteria for the most common conditions. During this sophomore year, the naturopathic medical students also get their first direct experience with patients by delivering hydrotherapy treatments in the school clinic.
The additional two to four years consist of specialized academic courses focusing on the systems of the body: cardiology, eyes, ears, nose and throat (EENT), gynecology, gastroenterology, urology, neurology, pediatrics, geriatrics and oncology. In addition, students can take courses in naturopathic therapeutics like clinical nutrition and botanicals, biotherapeutic drainage, lifestyle counseling, homeopathy, body work, hydrotherapy, and light therapy. In the clinic, they move through structured instruction on management of typical clinical cases by seeing individual patients under the close supervision of licensed naturopathic physicians and medical doctors.
After graduation, NDs must pass national board examination to become licensed and must complete required yearly continuing education (CE) to maintain that designation. This annual learning must include 10 hours of pharmacology CE, 2 hours of ethics CE, and another 38 hours of general continuing education on any topic pertaining to the clinical practice of naturopathic medicine.
For a detailed naturopathic course listing go to the National College of Naturopathic Medicine Academics Page and click on View Program Layouts. For the continuing education requirements and standards, go to the Oregon Board of Naturopathic Medicine and click on Continuing Education.