The six principles of naturopathic medicine serve as guidelines and reminders for a naturopathic physician’s approach to medical practice and patient care. The word “doctor” is actually derived from the Latin word “Docere,” which means “to teach,” and one of the most powerful tenets used to form a therapeutic relationship is the principle of “Docere,” or doctor as teacher.
Often, there is an assumption in healthcare delivery that the patient is a passive recipient of the treatment their healthcare provider prescribes. Cultural variations in perceptions of the doctor patient relationship also exist.1 Many patients have reported the experience of healthcare recommendations being made without active inclusion in decisions. The expectation can be to do as you are told, no questions asked. In fact, patients have even been “fired” for noncompliance because they did not understand or agree with the treatment plan.
An emerging mindset within the medical community is recognition that when patients take responsibility for their own well-being, and partner with their doctors through communication and education, they experience better health outcomes.2 It is encouraging that more providers are seeing the value in this approach; licensed naturopathic physicians have always practiced this way. The “Doctor as Teacher” approach serves to educate patients about their health and treatment options, while empowering them to take control of their own healing journey.
Why do NDs schedule 60-90 minutes for a first office visit?
This is a question many patients have when they schedule their first naturopathic medicine consultation. It is not uncommon for the first visit to last anywhere from one to two hours, with follow-up duration, as long as needed to be thorough. The average primary care visit in a conventional setting is only about 16 minutes, with approximately five of that as time spent by the patient speaking.3
NDs seek to fully understand their patients’ medical history, social support, diet and lifestyle concerns, mental and emotional issues, and of course, dive deeply into the primary reason for the visit. In fully understanding where a patient is coming from and the direction they would like to go regarding their health, the ND can create a treatment plan that is personalized and adaptive to patient needs.
Education is key
The naturopathic doctor has ample opportunity to teach the patient about their body, how it functions, and tools they can implement for lifelong health and wellness. For example, if a patient comes in with a complaint of insomnia, rather than just prescribing a sleep remedy, an ND will explore the root cause of the issue, and if applicable, explain to the patient how sleep cycles work, including examples of routines that are conducive to sleeping. Some recommendations may include keeping a cool and dark bedroom, avoiding electronics before bed, and food, lifestyle modifications and supplements that support sound and complete rest. The more patients know and understand their health, the more compliant they are likely to be with their treatment plan.4
With so much information on the internet, people are inundated and often overwhelmed by choices, and may not understand the rationale behind physician recommendations. The more a patient knows about health, the better equipped they are to make informed decisions about their day-to-day lives. Naturopathic doctors are specifically trained to help their patients through the maze of information about natural health care options, and educate them about treatments that are appropriate (or not) and what will work best for them!