The Naturopathic Experience

I recently decided to try my hand at freelancing. The first week was quiet…a couple of “nibbles on the line”, but nothing too serious. Then I had a client who really didn’t know what he needed me for (and I didn’t know why he wanted to write). Just as that was falling apart, I was awarded a ghostwriting job on a scifi ebook by a very friendly gentlewoman that I hope to have a consultation with in the next few days. My latest nibble is one I’m really excited about, for a book on having a Naturopathic practice. The physician asked for a sample, and I know I had one (once upon a time) about how the Naturopathic experience differs from the allopathic, but I know that blog has long since been deleted. I also checked my samples portfolio that I put together last weekend and I didn’t see anything worthy from my Naturopathy class. How radiation therapy affects pregnancy from my physics class, yes, but nothing from Naturopathy. So I’ll make the attempt to start anew.

Upon arriving at the doctor’s office, you sign in, pay your copay and maybe update your paperwork. Then you wait. And you wait. And you wait.

If you’re like everyone else, you’re probably using the time to play Candy Crush Saga (or Angry Birds). If you’re like me, you’re using the time to make progress on whatever ebook you’re reading. But either way, you’re looking at the clock, wondering how long it’s going to take and thinking, “Did I really give up my day off for this?

Finally, you get called back. Ebook into your purse, then purse on the floor as you get weighed. You’re assigned to a room, where the medical assistant takes your vitals, asks about your medicine and your general health. When she leaves, the MA promises that the doctor “will be right in”. But “right in” varies from office to office. Depending on how backed up the doctor is and the nature of the three (or half dozen) appointments ahead of you, you could be waiting another half hour! Then, when the doctor finally arrives, he or she asks a couple of questions, answers a couple, listens to your heart and then is off and running to another patient, having spent maybe ten minutes with you all told. Let’s take a look at those statistics.

If the doctor requires ten minutes out of every hour to check in at the nurses’ station, that means she can see five patients an hour (keeping with the ten minutes per patient theory). If she works from eight to noon and then from one to 4:30 (as many do), that’s anywhere from 37-40 patients a day! You may not think that that’s a terrible statistic, but think how many questions may be going unanswered and little problems may be missed because the doctor is packing in so many patients. Consider also that a mental health professional usually sees one patient in an hour and in working from eight to five (also with an hour for lunch), will see only eight patients per day. (Even with extended hours at least once a week, like my old counselor, that’s still only ten or eleven!)

What makes Naturopathic physicians different? They take time. While a counselor may see eight patients a day, a Naturopath could see only three or four. When doing my undergraduate studies (in alternative medicine, as you may remember), I learned that some new patient appointments are sixty to ninety minutes long. An allopath will read your family history and see that diabetes runs in your family, but may not discuss it with you. Conversely, a Naturopath will want to know not only who in your family has had diabetes, but whether they’ve had amputations, diabetic foot pain, whether they manage their glucose levels with diet and exercise (and if so, what kinds) and many other points of information. Subsequent appointments may only take half as long, but still longer than an allopathic appointment, because the Naturopath wants to get into your head and see what makes you tick. (Or not tick, as the case may be!)


I want to share this video with you before I go on; not just because it’s rollickingly funny (and Eric Roberts is a devilishly handsome rogue!), but because it points out three failures in the modern medical system that I’ll discuss with you after the jump.


Three Failures of the Modern Medical System

Time is Money: I think I touched on this pretty well before the jump, but keep that in mind. The more patients a doctor sees in a day, the more insurance policies get charged, the more co-pays he receives and the less he has to worry about making the monthly payments on his new Lexus. (Or whatever new toy he just bought.)

Unnecessary Tests and Treatments are More Money: I have a personal story I can relate for this one. A few years ago, I was having trouble with terrible nausea. I’d get out of bed in the morning not because it was time to get up, but because I was too nauseous to sleep any longer. I could barely eat and a low caloric intake meant that I had little energy, so I slept most of the day. I’d gone to the hospital for a similar issue and the doctor told me to take Prilosec because I had acid reflux. As instructed by the ER, I followed up with my doctor shortly after and she said that I needed…I forget the name of the procedure, but to have a camera put down my throat. I was scared shitless, didn’t want to meet with the surgeon, didn’t want to have it done, anything. So Dr. J referred me to a gastroenterologist.

By the time I got in (Dr. W was booked quite far in advance), my daily nausea was gone and I could eat most foods without an issue (but I was still taking my Prilosec). I told Dr. W what all had happened in my life running up to–and after–my visit to the emergency room. He checked me over and said, “Based on the story you told me, you don’t have acid reflux and you didn’t need a camera down your throat. I think it was an extreme reaction to stress and you could probably stop taking the Prilosec yet today.” My last box of pills still sits in my cupboard at this very moment, because it doesn’t expire until 2014.

Can you imagine if I hadn’t been a chicken and gone along with Dr. J’s recommendation? Blue Cross-Blue Shield would’ve paid for the surgeon, the test and all the related paraphernalia even though they didn’t need to!

Treat the Symptoms, Not the Patient: This one is the point we in the alternative medicine field like to harp on the most. Unfortunately, “Doctor Cash” hit it right on the mark–allopaths tend to treat the symptoms as they come up. Naturopaths, on the other hand, will keep digging until they find the root of the problem and treat the root. It’s kind of like dealing with dandelions, if you think about it. If you mow the lawn, the dandelions will grow back later (allopath treating the symptoms). But if you apply a weed killer that will go all the way down to the roots, it’s like the Naturopath treating the root of the problem. Alternative medicine is also holistic medicine–if you treat the whole person, they get better; not just the disease.

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