July 1st, 2015 was a special date for Ontario Naturopaths. Not only was it Canada’s 148th birthday, it was also that date where new regulations promoting Naturopaths as primary care doctors came into full effect. The now officially titled Naturopathic Doctors (also known as “NDs") have been a self regulated profession in Ontario under the Drugless Practitioner’s Act (DPA) since 1925. Getting a much needed update to our regulation, via the Naturopathy Act of 2007, July 1st saw naturopathic doctors captured under the same legislation as mainstream primary care physicians, namely MDs. We, the NDs and MDs, are now under the same Regulated Healthcare Practitioners Act (RHPA). While both can diagnose disease and prescribe certain substances, the naturopathic doctors, as you would expect, align their scope of practice with more natural modalities like botanical medicine and acupuncture.
So what does this all mean to you? Naturopathic Doctors will continue to provide professional, patient-centred, holistic care - with a few positive additions.
With the Naturopathy Act 2007, certain criteria must be met in order for someone to call themselves a Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopath or ND. This criteria includes having an undergraduate degree, a diploma/degree from an accredited 4 year Naturopathic program, successfully passing national North American and provincial Ontario board exams specifically for NDs (called “NPLEX” exams), be licensed with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario (CONO) and to maintain a high level of current scientific knowledge through required continuing educations credits. If someone calls themselves an Naturopath without meeting these criteria, they can be fined up to $25,000. This protects the public from going to someone who calls themselves a Naturopath, but does not have the skill, education, or due process to do so.
What this means for you: This means that if you see a licensed Naturopath in Ontario, you know that they are a highly skilled and educated health professional that must keep up with the best scientific education to help you receive the care you need.
Controlled Acts are services or actions that are only allowed to be done with special permission by the Ontario Government. As primary health care providers, NDs have always been allowed to performed certain controlled acts including gynaecological (which I am now offering) and rectal exams, acupuncture, spinal manipulations and administering substances through injection or inhalations. This will not change, in fact, the Naturopathy Act 2007 has actually increased our scope of practice to include communicating a naturopathic diagnosis. These are exciting times for people who are looking for a more holistic style of medicine that looks at treating the root cause of disease instead of just managing the symptoms.
What this means to you: Naturopathic Doctors will continue to have the right use certain controlled acts to help you and they will be able to communicate an official diagnosis using naturopathic criteria.
An exciting addition for NDs is the ability to use the “Dr.” title. Only a handful of other health professionals in Ontario (medical doctors, chiropractors, optometrists, dentists, psychologists and veterinarians) are allowed to used this protected title. This signifies that the Ontario governments recognizes the importance and highly trained skill set of NDs and their competence to use the title of “Doctor”.
What this means to you: It just highlights that the Ontario government recognizes Naturopathic Doctors as highly trained health professionals who can treat patients within their scope of practice.
Prescribing rights allows NDs to prescribe and dispense certain substances that the general public does not have access too. Some of these substances include desiccated thyroid gland, bio-identical hormones and some restricted herbs. At this moment, this does not include pharmaceutical medications.
What this means for you: Naturopathic Doctors have access to more herbs and substances/drugs than ever before.
Access to Ontario Labs
Probably one of the most ground-breaking aspects of the new legislation is allowing naturopathic doctors access to order labs and collect specimens. Getting blood work and other diagnostic laboratory testing (including stool, salvia, hair and urine analysis) is important so you can have more information about what is going on in your body. Naturopathic doctors now have access to many of the same diagnostic tests as your medical doctor. An important difference is that labs run by NDs are not currently covered by OHIP so patients have to pay out of pocket for them.
What this means for you: Your Naturopathic Doctor can order many important lab tests for you.
This is a progressive time for naturopathic medicine, but it is important to note that many fundamentals aspects of naturopathic medicine have not (and will not) change. This includes treating the entire person (mind/body medicine), using the healing power of nature, providing individualistic, patient-centred care and getting to the root cause of your health concerns. NDs will continue to be your health partner, will take the time to listen to your concerns and continue to help you achieve optimal health. The addition of these new tools will help NDs get to the root cause of your concern and will provide Ontarian's with a safe and natural option to healthcare.
An important aspect of Naturopathic Medicine is education. So if you would like more information about all the new changes, please clink on the various links below or come see me at my Woodstock or Norwich office locations.
College of Naturopaths of Ontario
Government of Ontario ND update
Ontario of Association of Naturopathic Doctors
Yours in health,
Dr. Jaclyn ND
Naturopathic Doctor in Norwich and Woodstock Ontario