Differences between a Naturopathic Physician (NMD/ND), Naturopathic Practitioner, and Medical Consultant (MD)

The differences between a Naturopathic Physician (NMD/ND), Naturopathic Practitioner, and Medical Consultant (MD)

by Nicole Cain, ND MA

Lots of folks have been asking us what a Naturopathic Physician (NMD/ND) is, and we wanted to share with you a few differences between a Naturopathic Physician (Consultant in Michigan) (NMD/ND), Naturopathic Practitioner, and Medical Consultant (MD)!

Naturopathic consultants are NOT the same as naturopaths, which is confusing because the names are the same.

In fact a Naturopathic Consultant’s (NMD/ND) curriculum is more similar to that of a Medical Consultant (MD), than a naturopathic practitioner.

Here are 6 things that make licensed Naturopathic Physicians (consultants in Michigan) different from naturopathic practitioners:

1. Naturopathic Consultants are graduates of accredited, four-year naturopathic medical colleges (there are only 6 of these colleges in the United States, none of which are in Michigan)
2. They are licensed or regulated by states
3. They must pass rigorous professional board exams
4. They can order diagnostic tests prescribe prescription drugs and hormones, and perform minor surgery, acupuncture, and do IV’s.
5. They must carry malpractice insurance
6. They must maintain a commitment to lifelong learning through continuing education (CEUs or CMEs)*
7. They complete over 1330 hours of clinical training, traditional naturopaths receive no clinical training (clinical training is akin to MD’s going to grand rounds and doing a residency with patients).
8. This extensive medical and clinical education is absolutely necessary for public safety. If a clinician is not medically trained, but they are recommending things for you to put into your body, they really have no idea if it could hurt you. Eg: You are on warfarin for your heart disease, and your clinician recommends turmeric. This might seem like a good idea, but a clinician who has not gone to medical school might not have learned that turmeric is a blood thinner and will interact with your warfarin and put you at extremely high risk for hemorrhage/bleed.

Here are 4 key things that make licensed Naturopathic Physicians (consultants in Michigan) different from MD’s:

1) Years 1 and 2 of medical school are very similar between ND’s and MD’s, though often ND’s often have a heavier load (see reference).
2) MD’s are required a minimum of 1,200 hours of clinical training, Naturopathic Physicians (NMD’s) are required at least 1,330 hours of clinical training.
3) Years 3 and 4 NMD’s receive extensive training in all of the alternative modalities (that the MD’s do not get) while continuing to complete the same basic coursework done in these years in MD programs.
4) NMD’s focus on prevention, identifying the root cause, and many avoid using prescription medications when there are alternative methods to improve health and decrease the need for medications.
*Continuing Education Units or Continuing Medical Education*
Naturopathic Physicians are referred to as “Consultants” in the State of Michigan (as of April 2018) as they have a 4-year consultantate degree from an accredited college, but Michigan has not yet passed legislation allowing Naturopathic Consultants, physician’s rights.
In Michigan, Naturopathic Consultants are not yet licensed, Naturopathic Consultants are only able to provide health education to residents of Michigan.

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