1. Can a Naturopathic Physician (ND) order lab tests?
Yes, in WA state, a licensed naturopathic physician is considered to be a licensed primary care physician. Thus, in WA state, a naturopathic physician can order lab tests just like other primary care physicians or family medicine physicians.
In addition, as trained primary care physicians in WA state, licensed naturopathic physicians can offer services such as Pap Smear, HPV testing and screening (preventative services that are recommended for female patients between age 21-65 years).
2. Can a Naturopathic Physician (ND) prescribe medications?
In WA state, licensed naturopathic physicians have expanded prescription rights.
Naturopathic physicians in Washington state can prescribe all legend drugs with the exception of Botulinum Toxin (Botox). Thus, naturopathic physicians in Washington state can prescribe necessary antibiotics to treat infections just like other WA state licensed primary care physicians.
Naturopathic physicians, however, cannot prescribe certain medications such as controlled substance schedules II-V. Examples of schedule III medication that ND cannot prescribe include drugs that have stimulant effect on central nervous system such as methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin). In WA state, ND cannot prescribe Schedule II narcotics such as:
oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
fentanyl (Sublimaze, Duragesic)
morphine, opium, and codeine.
Although naturopathic physicians cannot prescribe methylphenidate, medication commonly used to treat ADHD, naturopathic physicians often work with patients with ADHD providing adjunctive care. Naturopathic physicians are trained to work together with other healthcare providers to provide best care for the patients. As primary care physicians, naturopathic physicians can refer patients to see specialists for specialized tests to get the most accurate diagnosis of each condition. Licensed naturopathic physicians are trained to utilize prescription drugs, although the emphasis of natural medicine is the use of natural healing agents.
3. Why choose a naturopathic physician instead of other primary care provider?
Naturopathic physicians are trained slightly different from other primary care providers such as nurse practitioners or M.D. primary care physicians. Even though licensed naturopathic physicians in WA state have similar pre-med courses during undergraduate degree (bachelor degree) prior to attending a naturopathic medical school (similar to M.D. primary care physicians). In naturopathic medical schools, licensed naturopathic physicians receive similar basic science courses similar to conventional schools. The difference is that in naturopathic medical schools, licensed naturopathic physicians get additional trainings in botanical medicine, homeopathy AND physical medicine modalities including but not limited to spinal manipulation, massage, aromatherapy, muscle energy stretching, therapeutic exercise and hydrotherapy. These extra modalities allow naturopathic physicians to help treat chronic pain or chronic illnesses with as little pharmaceutical drugs as possible.
In addition, naturopathic physicians are trained to look at each patient as a whole person. Naturopathic physicians are trained to treat each patient as a whole person rather than treating each symptom as a separate problem. Naturopathic physicians believe that there are connections between mental, emotional and physical health. For example, skin eczema may be the result of emotional stress. Certain skin conditions may be the result of food sensitivities. Physicians that aim to treat the underlying causes of a problem may not just prescribe medication to suppress the symptom temporarily, but rather help each patient find the underlying cause of each symptom such as offering elimination diet to find out the underlying cause of certain skin condition. Thus, many patients may find that naturopathic physicians have different ways to approach a problem or different treatment plans compared to conventional medical doctors.
Similar to MDs, naturopathic physicians must pass rigorous professional board exams before they can be licensed by a state or jurisdiction.
For prospective patients that are interested to use the least amount of pharmaceutical drugs to reach their optimal health goals, naturopathic physicians may have more tools to offer. Examples of conditions naturopathic physicians may have alternative botanical medicine treatments include but not limited to UTI (urinary tract infection that cause increase urination, pain during urination, and urgency to urination), insomnia, fungal skin conditions, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and much more.
4. What do Naturopathic Physicians think about vaccinations?
Many licensed naturopathic physicians in WA state offer vaccination services in-office.
Vaccinations and injections of substances consistent with the practice of naturopathic medicine are within the scope of practice for licensed naturopathic physicians in WA state. The role of licensed naturopathic physicians in WA state is to educate patients about pros and cons of vaccinations as well as other substances (herbs as well as pharmaceutical drugs). The role of licensed naturopathic physicians are not to judge any patient or make a decision for any patient. Licensed Naturopathic Physicians are trained to give vaccinations and injections of substances consistent with the practice of naturopathic medicine in WA state. Naturopathic physicians are trained to figure out each patient's health goals, personal values and help patient work toward his/her goals and values. Thus, physicians' personal opinions should not interfere with each patient's values and judgement.