With the opioid epidemic, soaring obesity rates and the antibiotic crisis, today’s health care landscape continues to move toward integrative medicine. To meet demand, many prestigious hospitals and medical offices are now incorporating alternative medicine practices including Cleveland Clinic, Duke University, John Hopkins, Yale and the University of California, San Francisco. This means more employment opportunities for chiropractic physicians, naturopathic doctors, and acupuncturists.
If you’re considering a career in one of these fields, here are some of the ways an education in integrative, alternative medicine can make you a better practitioner for your future patients.
You will be able to treat patients more holistically
A 2019 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that compared to other high-income countries, Americans spend the most on health care but still have the lowest life expectancy and other major health issues. For the millions of Americans suffering from the chronic illnesses that account for most of the nation’s health care spending, the current health care system isn’t working nor is it cost-effective. Holistic medicine, on the other hand, can provide the type of care needed to help these people.
Holistic medicine involves treating the whole person. Instead of just prescribing a treatment method or medicine for a specific ailment, alternative medicine practitioners look at a patient’s overall health including lifestyle and diet. Instead of focusing on symptoms, they consider the underlying causes of their conditions and how to prevent the issues from occurring in the first place. For those with recurring conditions, this approach can be especially useful.
Your treatment methods will be less invasive and have less side effects
Alternative medicine is unique because its therapies have few side effects. Today, these kinds of treatments are more important than ever. The medical community has had to address the opioid epidemic in the United States along with the problems that can arise from frequently prescribed antibiotics. That's why alternative medicine treatments such as spinal manipulation, nutritional counseling, physical rehabilitation, etc. can be so beneficial.
Treating the root cause of the problem also means treatments last longer. Overall, patients receive a better and less invasive experience.
Your patients will have more treatment options
Health care is a significant expense for individuals and families — especially those with chronic diseases. One of the largest expenses people face is costly prescriptions. However, patients who see an alternative medicine practitioner such as a naturopathic doctor or chiropractic physician can often avoid using costly drugs that frequently result in harmful side effects. Instead, alternative medicine offers a wide spectrum of treatment modalities that uses nature’s healing power and is often individualized to each patient.
Some of the many alternative medicine treatments available include manipulation, soft tissue work, Kinesiotape, acupuncture, homeopathy, lifestyle management and nutritional counseling and more. All of which can be used to treat a wide array of illnesses.
You will spend more time with patients
Alternative medicine practitioners generally spend more time with their patients. Compared to traditional doctors who spend about 20 minutes with each patient, naturopathic doctors, for example, spend between one and two hours face-to-face with patients in an initial appointment, and 30 to 60 minutes in subsequent appointments, according to the Institute for Natural Medicine.
This is because naturopathic doctors like other alternative medicine practitioners don’t simply diagnose a condition based upon a patient’s current symptoms but work to find the underlying causes by learning a patient’s whole history.
Instead of the physician playing the role of a medical authority figure who prescribes medication and testing, CAM doctors and their patients work together to find long-term solutions (instead of quick fixes) to health problems.
You will work better with other doctors
As more people become interested in complementary and alternative medicine treatments, alternative medicine practitioners can expect more interaction with medical doctors and other health care practitioners. Whether you're discussing previous treatments received by patients or trying to obtain referrals, the ability to work integratively with other health care providers is key. It could also mean more career opportunities working at a large medical clinic or at a hospital.
By attending National University, you are able to gain this experience even before you graduate by treating patients collaboratively at the on-campus clinic.
In addition to being in demand, another advantage of a career in an alternative medicine is the wide variety of career paths available. At National University, having multiple programs on one campus means you can more easily earn additional degrees to further expand your scope of practice. National University offers various programs including chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, and acupuncture, some of which can be earned simultaneously through dual degree options.
To learn more about starting a degree program in alternative medicine, download the Guide to financing a Graduate Degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine.