Education & Licensing
Education of a Naturopathic Doctor
A licensed naturopathic doctor (N.D.) attends a four-year graduate level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an M.D. but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic doctor is required to complete four years of training in clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling (to encourage people to make lifestyle changes in support of their personal health). A naturopathic doctor takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice doctor. Additional information on naturopathic schools can be found at www.aanmc.org.
Program of Study for Naturopathic Doctors
The N.D. degree course of study at National University of Naturopathic Medicine is an intensive four-year doctoral program that prepares candidates for state board licensing examinations and the general practice of naturopathic medicine. Upon graduation, alumni are eligible to sit for board examinations in states and provinces that license naturopathic doctors. The core, or required, curriculum provides the foundation and skills necessary for naturopathic family practice.
First year comprises the study of the normal structure and function of the body with a solid introduction to naturopathic theory, philosophy, and therapeutics.
Second year focuses on the study of disease and diagnosis with the beginning of the botanical, therapeutic manipulation, clinical nutrition, and homeopathic medicine sequences. To enter into the clinical training of the third year, students must pass all basic sciences and diagnostic courses as well as a clinic entrance examination.
Third year continues with focus on the botanical, manipulation, clinical nutrition, and homeopathic medicine sequences, begins the organ systems courses (which emphasize case management), and gives major emphasis to clinical training. Students must pass a clinical primary status exam to proceed in the clinic.
Fourth year continues the organ systems courses. The major focus of the fourth year is practical clinical training, working side by side with licensed doctors caring for patients. A clinic proficiency exam ensures clinical competency prior to graduation.
Because the program is rigorous and the course load heavy, students may choose to complete the N.D. degree in five rather than four years. In some cases, students may be required to be in the five-year track. The student may take no more than seven years to complete the program.
(Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam)
NPLEX is the standard examination used by all licensing jurisdictions for naturopathic doctors in North America. It includes 5 basic science exams (anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, microbiology and immunology) taken after the first 2 years of medical school. The clinical science examinations are taken following graduation after the 4th year of school. They include: clinical and physical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis and diagnostic imaging, botanical medicine, pharmacology, nutrition, physical medicine, homeopathy, minor surgery, psychology and lifestyle counseling, and emergency medicine. Individual jurisdictions may give additional examinations in jurisprudence and acupuncture.
NPLEX has announced the creation of a new organization: the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE). NPLEX will retain it’s role as the producer of a transnational board licensing examination; the NPLEX Board has been restructured so that exam development will be its sole focus. The NABNE will take on the role of gathering input from the various constituencies involved in the profession (jurisdictions, schools, associations, etc.). In addition, the NABNE will begin two new functions. First the NABNE will be the point of application for students and candidates who want to take the NPLEX. NABNE will review credentials to make certain that applicants meet the criteria for examination. Second, the NABNE will set up testing centers in the U.S. and Canada for administration of the exams. The impetus for creating the NABNE stems primarily from the desire to maintain high standards within the profession. The first function (approving candidates to sit for the exams) will ensure that the NPLEX exams are taken only by candidates who have been appropriately trained at accredited naturopathic medical colleges. The second function (administering the NPLEX exams) will ensure that the exams are administered without bias and are kept secure. The NABNE Board will be responsive to the input of an advisory committee comprised of appointees from the jurisdictions, the schools, the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME), the Federation of Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Authorities (FNPLA), and the national associations, as well as several public members. Input from the Advisory Committee will be critical for setting examining standards and for coordinating the effort. As currently proposed, applicants will apply to the NABNE to take the NPLEX Basic Science Exams. The NABNE will ensure that the applicant meets the standards set with input from the Advisory Committee and if everything is complete, will send exam booklets to the exam administration site of choice for that applicant. The NABNE will arrange all examination sites and proctors. NPLEX will score the exams, and NABNE will send score reports directly to the examinees. Licensing Boards need no longer be involved with the approval or administration process for the Basic Science Exams. At graduation from an approved school, eligible candidates will again apply to the NABNE to be approved to take the Clinical exams; the NABNE will send exam booklets to the candidate’s exam site of choice (again arranged and proctored by the NABNE). NPLEX will score the exams, NABNE will send score reports directly to the candidates, and will then send transcripts of the candidate’s Basic Science and Clinical exam scores to the jurisdiction where the candidate wants to be licensed. Please note, the NABNE is NOT a licensing board, the jurisdictions still hold all authority for investigating the credentials of and approving candidates for licensure. The NABNE is an examining board, responsible only for the examination process. This is similar to the model followed in many other health care professions including the National Board of Medical Examiners and the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners where applicants apply to a central agency for examination.
We see it as a very positive step both to reduce confusion among applicants regarding where they should apply to take the NPLEX, and to reduce work by the jurisdictions in terms of time that will no longer be spent in approving the applicants to sit for, and administering the exams.
Contact Information for NPLEX
Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination Board (NPLEX)
P.O. Box 69657
Portland, OR 97201
Representation of Naturopathic Doctors
Dr. Pratt is a member of the AANP. The AANP (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians), founded in 1986, is the professional association that represents licensed NDs in the US. To learn more about Naturopathic Medicine visit the AANP website at http://www.naturopathic.org.
Dr. Pratt is also a member of the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Doctors.
The Colorado Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CoAND) is a professional association of naturopathic doctors (NDs) who live and work in Colorado. Our members are graduates of accredited four-year, graduate-level, in-residence naturopathic medical programs. The State of Colorado regulates naturopathic doctors by registration at this time.
What do other states do to protect consumers?
Other states require naturopathic doctors to graduate from accredited schools, pass licensing examinations and be supervised by a regulatory board. A nationally standardized Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX) has been established which is used in the states that currently regulate NDs. Currently, fourteen states license NDs: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. In addition, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and four Canadian provinces also license naturopathic doctors. In all of these jurisdictions, NDs practice as independent general practitioners with oversight from a state regulatory board. Licensed NDs are required to complete annual continuing education, practice responsibly and meet all of the individual state requirements in order to maintain their license. A licensed ND has unique expertise in natural medicine while also possessing the ability to diagnose and treat medical conditions, perform physical exams, and order laboratory testing. In many of the states that license naturopathic doctors, health care consumers may specifically choose NDs as their primary health care providers.