A naturopath student works on a residency to get clinical experience.

Naturopathic Residency Programs

How Clinics and Patients Benefit From Residencies

Residency isn't required for naturopathic students, but it's a great option to gain additional clinical experience - and patients benefit from ND residencies as well.

Guest Article

By Michelle Simon, PhD, ND and JoAnn Yánez, ND, MPH, CAE

Each year, hundreds of fresh new naturopathic medical graduates enter the medical workforce. They are well-trained, and eager to make a difference, putting into practice the knowledge and skills, hard won through at least four years of accredited naturopathic medical education. Though not required, residency is one of the options graduates can use to further hone their clinical experience. The Institute for Natural Medicine (INM) and Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC), support  post-graduate naturopathic education by providing a pathway to enter into residency programs.

Unlike conventional medical students, whose mandatory residency is financially supported by taxpayer dollars through Medicare, naturopathic residents rely on integrative medicine clinicians and the medical community to support their continued study and mentorship. The opportunities for residency have markedly increased in the last 40 years, in part due to a concerted effort to create these educational experiences.

Why Naturopathic Residencies Make a Difference in Patient Care

The naturopathic community is committed to growing positive residency positions for all naturopathic graduates. Naturopathic residencies are beneficial to both the site and the resident. Clinics and residents report that the benefit of residency programs far exceeds the one or two-year program term. From our experience working with site directors and residents, this is a fraction of what they report:

  1. Residents receive real world experience in naturopathic whole-person medicine.
  2. Residents gain confidence and case management skills.
  3. Residents grow their ability to develop and present naturopathic treatment plans.
  4. Residents further develop interprofessional communication and case co-management.
  5. Staff physicians learn about advances in naturopathic medicine from residents.
  6. Patients feel valued and appreciated with collaborative care from staff and residents that simultaneously addresses both mental and physical health.
  7. Residents fill personnel gaps in primary care, urgent care, specialty practices and hospitals.

Logan Rost, ND, MPH, CHES was recently interviewed by INM about her residency at the Family Health Centers community health center in Okanogan County, WA. She rotates through primary care clinics and sees a variety of patients who would likely not have access to naturopathic medicine without Family Medical Centers. The clinics are Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and receive federal funding to provide care for underserved populations or communities lacking quality access to healthcare.

“I always knew that I wanted to do a residency. It was really important that I have a rigorous learning environment by being challenged in seeing lots of patients. I wanted the benefit of ongoing mentorship from someone to help me with a particularly challenging case, and take any clinical pearls from their years of experience being in the field and working in primary care,” said Dr. Logan. 

The only way that naturopathic medicine will ever reach populations like those in Okanogan County and patients managing the aftermath of the pandemic, is through well-funded naturopathic residency programs. That work requires a collective effort from all stakeholders – naturopathic doctors, clinics and hospitals, professional industry members and accredited naturopathic medicine colleges.

Funding Naturopathic Residency Programs

The Institute for Natural Medicine is working to bring together a collective group to help grow opportunities and funding for ND residencies. The latter takes a great deal of time, however all donations mean more graduating naturopathic medical students can benefit from a residency program.

The Institute for Natural Medicine Residency Consortium began in 2018 with a group of visionary leaders who wanted to fund a two-year residency for recent graduates. Since that time, the program has grown to 14 clinics and has helped graduate 63 first-and second-year residents. The INM Residency Consortium utilizes a unique funding model whereby INM brings together an academic partner (one of the sponsoring naturopathic medical programs), a multi-practitioner naturopathic primary care clinic and a pool of stakeholder corporations, philanthropic individuals and grants to fund residencies.  Each clinic hosting a resident gets a quarterly grant from this collaborative to help defray the administrative cost.

All INM Resident host clinics use the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Colleges (AANMC) centralized application and match process to fill open residency positions. This service ensures a fair and competitive process in resident selection. Residents are paid a base salary based on the Council of Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) guidelines and local cost of living standards. Second-year residents receive a raise, and all residents receive compensation for health care, malpractice coverage and two weeks paid vacation.

Financial supporters of residency programs fund much more than they realize. When combined with the extensive shadow training and clinical hours at naturopathic medical school, NDs leave the two-year INM residency program with a naturopathic primary care focus and mentorship in all aspects of a successful practice. This includes advanced training in leadership, clinical practice management, and additional practical clinical experience. The program includes but is not limited to:

  1. Clinical Patient Care
  2. Mentoring and Shadowing
  3. Completing a Patient Case Report
  4. Business of Medicine
  5. Leadership Training
  6. Quarterly Academic Seminars
  7. Business Growth Projects

From a recent survey conducted in April 2022 of prior graduates of the INM Residency Consortium, 100% of the respondents said they were glad they completed a residency.  The challenge remains to provide adequate opportunities for all graduates.  There are a few options in addition to INM’s program:  naturopathic medical colleges are the largest employer of residents at academic medical centers, integrative medical clinics afford tailored residency options, and there is the Naturopathic Education and Residency Consortium that has been helping support residencies in the profession for over twenty years.  All of these opportunities can be found by graduates through the centralized application and match process run by the AANMC.

We currently have more interested residency sites and prospective resident applicants than we have funding to support them all. Your generosity funds all of this and much more. If you would like to be a part of something that has the potential to truly change healthcare in America, and you value access to the best and brightest upcoming naturopathic doctors, I encourage you to support INM’s residency program. There is a patient waiting to be healthier and a student waiting for the opportunity to help.

Learn more about the INM Residency Consortium and contact Dr. Simon with any questions. For general inquiries regarding naturopathic residencies, please email residency@aanmc.org.

About the Authors

Michelle Simon, PhD, ND, CEO and President of the Institute for Natural Medicine, brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. She has served on boards including the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as the 2018 AANP Physician of the Year.

JoAnn Yánez, ND, MPH, CAE is the executive director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC) and the past chair of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health (ACIH). As AANMC Executive Director, Dr. Yánez oversees research, advocacy efforts, and the joint academic endeavors of the accredited colleges of naturopathic medicine. Additionally, she helps spread awareness of naturopathic medicine as a viable and satisfying career path.

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