Career as a naturopath

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Tracy Turner is a naturopath who practises in Hampshire. She also teaches students at the British College of Osteopathic Medicine in London.

What is naturopathy?

A naturopath believes that the body is capable of repairing itself, so my work involves educating people on how to boost their immune systems and create the best possible environment to help their bodies repair.

What happens during a consultation?

I start by asking the patient about their complaint, how severe it is, and how it affects their life. I then take a full medical history, noting previous injuries, operations and serious illnesses, and whether the patient is taking any medication.

I also find out about the patient's family medical history and their working life. I check their weight and height, and examine their body for problems with posture. I also check their blood pressure and pulse.

Do you ask for other information?

I give patients a diet diary and ask them to list in detail everything they eat and drink in the following week. If they have cereal for breakfast I need to know what type, roughly how much they ate, how much sugar they added, how much milk they used and whether it was full-fat, semi-skimmed or skimmed.

Why do you need to know so much?

A health problem could be caused by many different factors. Building a complete picture of the patient and their lifestyle helps me to understand their problem and recommend the most appropriate treatment.

What treatments do you recommend?

Changes in diet are often helpful, although people's bodies react to food in different ways. I examine the patient's diet diary and identify a food which could be causing the problem. I advise them to avoid that food completely for six weeks and monitor their condition during that time. If it doesn't improve, that particular food was not causing the problem and we try something else.

I could also recommend breathing and other exercises, and in some cases food supplements.

Do you give any physical treatment?

There's hydrotherapy which stimulates the circulation and the immune system. The patient sits in a large bowl, known as a sitz bath, which is filled with cold water. Their feet are placed in another bowl filled with hot water. I alternate hot and cold water in the bowls throughout the treatment.

I could also use my hands to treat parts of the body. For example, to treat the lungs, I would work on the ribs, intercostal muscles, diaphragm and its nerve supply.

What hours do you work?

I work in my private practice three days a week, from 9am to 7pm. There are often breaks between appointments, so I can sometimes go home for a few hours in the middle of the day. On the two days when I am teaching, I work from 9am to 6pm.

What do you like most about your career as a naturopath?

I really enjoy the variety and I meet new people all the time. It's very satisfying when treatments work. I also enjoy choosing my own hours.

Is there anything you dislike?

Naturopathy doesn't help everybody and it can be frustrating when treatments don't work.

What skills do you need to become a naturopath?

Listening skills and empathy with patients are very important. Treatment can take a long time and results depend on how well the patient follows advice, so patience is essential.

Tracy's route to her career as a naturopath

  • A levels in physics, chemistry, biology, maths and English.
  • BSc Osteopathic Medicine (with Diploma in Naturopathic Medicine).
  • MA Osteopathic Medicine.
  • Teaching at the British College of Osteopathic Medicine.
  • Five years working in a complementary health clinic.
  • One year in her own practice.

Tracy's naturopathy tips

  • Work experience with people can be helpful.
  • Contact a naturopath and ask to observe them at work.
  • You won't be able to instruct patients unless you believe in naturopathy and follow the lifestyle yourself.

Naturopath related jobs

Salary of a naturopath

  • Naturopaths are self-employed, so income depends on how many patients they treat and the rates they charge for each session.
  • A new entrant, building up a practice, could earn about £12,000 a year.
  • With experience this could increase to £20,000.
  • Naturopaths with established practices could earn £40,000-£45,000.

Career as a naturopath

  • To qualify for registration with the General Council and Register of Naturopaths (GCRN) you must have studied a full-time accredited course in naturopathic medicine, leading to a Naturopathic Diploma (ND), or hold a Degree in Health Sciences, Complementary Therapies (Pathway for Naturopathic Medicine) from the University of Westminster.
  • The British College of Osteopathic Medicine offers a BSc (Hons) Degree in Osteopathic Medicine combined with a Naturopathic Diploma, and a four-year full-time Diploma in Naturopathy.
  • Minimum qualifications for entry are three A levels/four H grades, usually including biology and chemistry, and five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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