My best friend Audrey, began her third year of a naturopathic medicine degree in September 2017. Audrey and I have had so many chats about naturopathic medicine and the roles, treatments and functionalities of NDs. During one of our most recent conversations, she persuaded me to visit an ND in our community.
My favourite part about this whole endeavour was having an opportunity to actually choose my doctor. In Canada, our “free” health care system often means that patients don’t actually have an opportunity to chose their health care teams. We are given a team based on where our names fall on a registry of patients or are cared for by our birth mother’s physician. While I am absolutely 100% grateful to have unfettered access to health care, I do believe that this is one part of our healthcare system that is lacking; Not everyone is compatible with their family doctor/specialist or extended health care team (and can afford to leave a practise and wait YEARS to be added to another, via an arbitrary list).
With naturopathic medicine the process is a bit different. These physician services are not covered under provincial/national healthcare, so they do require out-of-pocket payment. I am very lucky, as my private health plan does cover a portion of naturopathic medicine services. With all of this being said, I would love to see NDs become accessible to all classes and people in all types of situations, but for the time being, they are only readily accessible to those who have the extended health care plans or extra income to afford their time.
A great bonus about visiting a ND is that generally, appointments can be booked relatively quickly (obviously this depends on the doctor and his/her patient load). I booked about a week before I wanted to see her and had no problems at all. I really enjoyed being able to visit different websites to find more information about the NDs practising in my community- their websites were all very well done and offered a lot of information for the patient. I was able to see photos of the physicians, read about their schooling and modalities, along with seeing a list of treatments they were trained in and practise out of their offices. I chose my ND based on a few factors, but mostly word of mouth and via her website. It was very informative and provided a great a look into her practise.
When preparing for my first visit, the website instructed me to book a 75 min appointment! When have you EVER seen your GP for 75min in a single visit? I never have! I was amazed that this amount of time was allotted to new patients- but let me tell you how much I appreciated having this much time to start building a relationship with my ND. Having access to her for 75 minutes meant that I could talk her through all of the big events in my life, any existing health issues, and really explain why I was there. All of this information was supplied to her in an 8 page intake document which I found on her website. This was helpful because I wasn’t put on the spot and was able to fill out the document over a couple of days and come back to it as I thought of things to add.
When I arrived I was ushered into a beautiful room, similar to what you would find in a massage studio. It was peaceful, smelled like essential oils and had task lighting. This created a beautifully calm space to relax and become comfortable with my doctor. There was no exam table with paper and definitely no harsh lighting. It didn’t smell of sterile instruments and was…. organic.
Throughout the 75 minute appointment, I was asked a host of questions, my opinions and even had a chance to listen to my ND speak about her passion and how she found naturopathic medicine. She was very informative and asked about my education and was willing to skip explanations of things that I already knew about (ie: basic nutrition, anatomy, etc..)
The weirdest part of the whole appointment? I didn’t even have to get on a table, get undressed or even step on a scale! The entire appointment was hands off, and while I was dealing with issues that were mostly hands-off for any physician, it was nice to learn that much of her practise is hands-off and she is more focused on the listen, understand and communicate aspect of medicine. I was also told that while many NDs are trained in physical manipulation, massage therapy and other hands-on procedures (like acupuncture), my ND was of the opinion to allow professionals to handle those types of treatments. She was ready to refer if needed, but it was unlikely that I would be receiving any massage therapy in her office.
At the end of my appointment I had to pay, which was weird, considering my GP’s office doesn’t even accept money of any kind, but it felt right to be able to pay someone for exceptional service!
In terms of parting gifts, I was given a hand-written prescription every time I visited my ND. These prescriptions are not like those your receive from a medial doctor; They often have notes from the appointment, things to remember or try and perhaps a suggestion or two for supplements. My ND was also very intent on self- learning and self-discovery, so I was often sent away with homework. I was asked to read a book, watch a movie, meditate or reflect throughout the week/month or time span between appointments.
Emailing is a great way to stay in touch in today’s busy age, so I was excited to learn that my ND offered email services through her practise. Generally, it is a 1-2 business day wait for replies, but it is a fantastic way to stay in touch or ask simple questions. I also like to send an email after I book an appointment- mostly so that I can let her in on why I want to see her, and let her help judge the best length of time for the appointment.
Pricing for every ND is different. Usually the first visit is more expensive (generally between $100-$250 based on experience, expertise and location)- as it is much longer. Otherwise, NDs usually charge based on 15 min, 30 min, 45 min and 60 min appointments.