In the field of naturopathic medicine, NUHS graduates aren’t limited to operating solo-practices or working in multi-disciplinary clinics. As the field continues to gain momentum within mainstream medicine, a wide variety of health care facilities are opening their doors to naturopathic doctors.
With over half the states across the country receiving ND regulation, most recently Wisconsin, the future of the field remains bright. Even in pre-licensed states, demand for this type of holistic treatment remains high. In fact, many of our own alumni have found successful careers in the following health facilities.
Edward-Elmhurst Health System in the Chicago-area is one of many prominent hospital groups across the United States that provides integrative health services. Their integrative health clinic employs naturopathic practitioners along with an acupuncturist, Reiki practitioner and spiritual care specialist.
Two years after graduating from NUHS with her ND degree, Heather Bautista ND, CNS, LDN, ‘14, was hired at the clinic to provide nutrition and dietary care to patients. “The clinic coordinator valued the ND approach, specifically our focus on nutrition and its impact on health,” she said. “The clinic also wanted a perspective other than a traditional dietician approach.”
While the clinic only provides outpatient nutrition care, because it’s part of a major hospital group, it has established relationships with surrounding departments who will often refer patients. The clinics practitioners will also work with referring physicians to keep them updated on their patients’ progress.
Unlike spas that focus on cosmetic treatments, the treatments provided at medical spas are much more health-oriented. Naturopathic practitioners who work at medical spas often work side-by-side with several types of health practitioners including medical doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and aestheticians.
At Skybalance Med Spa in the Chicago-area, Maggie Pilat Rzeszuto, ND, ’15, works with all of the above. Like most NDs, she sees patients for a wide variety of health issues. In addition to patients with aesthetic concerns like anti-aging, skin appearance and weight-loss, she also sees patients with nutritional deficiencies, gastrointestinal disorders, hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue, allergies and sensitivities. On a typical day, she uses IV Nutrient Therapy, functional medicine, dietary consultation, botanical and nutritional supplementation to treat patients.
When it comes to finding the right career, Dr. Pilat Rzeszuto advises students to keep an open mind and take chances. “Don’t be afraid to get creative and try to make a position for yourself,” she said.
During COVID-19 lock-down measures, many medical practices used telemedicine, or live videoconferencing, as a safe and necessary alternative to in-person visits. While it may seem like a new phenomenon, many complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) physicians have been embracing telemedicine, particularly naturopathic medicine doctors.
Last year, NUHS alum Jessica Christie, ND, LND, ’17, opened Magnolia Integrative Fertility, a 100 percent virtual holistic health center specializing in natural fertility restoration for women and men. Because she didn’t have to worry about getting a big loan or all the expenses that come with a brick-and-mortar shop, Dr. Christie was able to open her clinic in less time.
Overall, the obstacles to her virtual practice are few. For physical exams, Dr. Christie works integratively with her patient’s primary care doctors whom patients are required to see before her appointments. During virtual visits, there’s a lot she can offer her patients. For example, teaching patients how to perform certain tasks like hydrotherapy, exercises and other lifestyle adjustments which all have long-term effects on health.
While there will always be a need for in-person clinics, Dr. Christie says there’s a need for virtual clinics too. She recommends students look into it. “It’s definitely a really good option,” she said. “The best part is you don’t need to have a big investment to get started.”
Cancer treatment facilities
Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) is one of many cancer treatment facilities that employs naturopathic doctors along with various other complementary and alternative medicine practitioners.
In addition to identifying any interactions between supplements and pharmaceuticals, naturopathic doctors can help cancer patients cope with side-effects from cancer and various cancer treatments. According to the CTCA website, their naturopathic physicians help treat digestive issues, fatigue, insomnia, mucositis and mouth sores, nausea and vomiting, pain, peripheral neuropathy, radiation burns and weight loss.
One of NUHS own graduates, Samantha Hoang, ND, ‘11, FABNO, CNS, LDN, was chosen for a selective CTCA residency program and was later hired to work as a naturopathic physician at CTCA’s Zion, Illinois facility. As part of her position, she worked with a support team of medical oncologists, clinic nurses, registered dietitians, and nurse care managers.
Infertility is a common problem today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 couples have trouble conceiving. Because many couples choose to take an all-natural approach first, fertility clinics typically provide various complementary and alternative medicine treatments. Both acupuncture and naturopathic medicine are popular choices. Often the goal is to reduce stress and make any necessary dietary and lifestyle improvements. Other ND modalities include herbal medicine, physical medicine, and the use of specific nutrient supplementation.
Naturopathic doctors have the option of working at fertility centers both in licensed and pre-licensed states. Additionally, the demand for this kind of care is high enough that some naturopathic physicians have launched practices that focus solely on fertility, too.
More people today have started prioritizing wellness. Since the start of the pandemic, the use of complementary and alternative medicine and mind–body therapies has significantly increased, according to a 2020 paper in Alternative and Complementary Therapies. As a result, opportunities for naturopathic medicine doctors continues to grow. According to the American Association of Naturopathic Medicine Colleges, the naturopathic medicine field is expected to expand by nearly 10% every year.
There are already at least 28 medical centers spanning academic, university-affiliated hospitals, integrative medical centers, large health systems, and specialty treatment centers with naturopathic doctors on staff, according to a 2018 survey by the Institute for Natural Medicine. If you’re considering joining the field of naturopathic medicine, these facilities may be where you start a lucrative and promising career. Whatever specialty you choose, you can expect to have many exciting opportunities available to you.