Part 1 will jump into the most common health care providers we have: Medical Doctors, Doctor of Osteopathy, Naturopathic Doctors, and Chiropractors. Have you ever thought of the how perfectly a health care provider is named? I mean think about it. You are choosing someone to provide care for your health. I don’t know if whoever came up with this string of words really thought about it so deeply, but damn.
Now we need health care providers because most of us don’t have the slightest idea. Because health is so diverse and layered there are a lot of different types of health care providers. Some we may not even consider because of stigma. In part 1 I will be going over the majorly accepted and most talked about healthcare options.
But first, a story.

A Story

Imagine you have a house. “In this economy?!” Yes, just for a second, pretend.Photo by Scott Webb

So, you have this beautiful house that you have been building for a few months. It is finally done. One night you are home and as you start to run some water and it takes a few seconds to start coming out. A few months later you take a vacation. Once you get back home you start to think that your house has a funny smell. You can’t seem to find the source of the funny smell. After a while it starts to smell normal, so you assume everything is okay.
Finally, one day, a few months later, you come home and there is water everywhere! This is the first time you’ve ever experienced this (obviously!). You bust out your phone and start searching the internet for plumbers in your area! You find a 24/7 guy who comes out and there he is helping you with your plumbing.

Connecting the Dots

What does the above story have to do with healthcare? Well, think about what happened. The house, your body, was having symptoms. The person who owned the house, you, didn’t know what to make of the symptoms. Without meaning to they just sort of brushed it under the rug. Eventually, when things could no longer be ignored the home owner, you, called someone who could help.
Photo by pan xiaozhenNow in the story, you know exactly who to call. A plumber, because something is wrong with your pipes. But it’s not like that when something happens in your body. Instead we call the people we know to call, our general doctors or we go to an emergency room. Now there is nothing wrong with that, but let’s look a little closer.
What can a plumber help with? Most people know that they can get you out of a bind with water. They help make sure that water gets to and around your house without any problems. Water disposal, pipes, toilets, washers, etc.
What can you general doctor help with? Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Yes, they make you better, but how?
This is the current problem. When it comes to home owning you know generally what people to call to help you with what problem. But with healthcare, we tend to hit a wall.

The Goal

Before I dive into the this series I believe it is important that I state the goal at hand. I want to help clear up the role that different healthcare professionals can have in your life. Because the internet is full of so many varying degrees both for and against each branch of medicine it can be hard to see through it all. My goal here, again, is to help bring clarity. To take out the bias and explain what these different practices say they can do. This is also to help people realize the different concepts and people who are out there and ready to help you! Knowledge is power and the more knowledgeable we gain, the better! So, let’s jump into the different layers of healthcare so you know where to go the next time you need help.

The Different Levels of Health Care

Now I say different levels, but that doesn’t mean they are better than one another. Instead of a stair case, think of them as equally tall pillars. All of these pillars hold up the health care system. Some people just prefer the types of materials that make up different pillars.
Johns Hopkins Medicine has a wonderful list of these other pillars of health care. I will be using their list as my outline. I will then go into a general explanation of what that specific nature of medicine deals with. And if it tickles your fancy, I will include some resources so you can learn more.

Medical Doctor – MD

An MD is the classic form of medicine here in the West. MD’s go to school for anywhere from 11 to 16 years to become specialists in a field. Photo by Pina MessinaThis breaks down into: 4 year bachelors, 4 year medical school, 3 to 8 years of residency. Medical school takes them through the basics of what they need to know. Their residency is where these doctors truly get to understand the full scope of the field they wish to practice in. Once school has been completed, MD’s are recognized and can practice in all 50 States.
MD’s can specialize and become GD/GP’s, OB-GYN’s, dermatologist, pediatrician, orthopedics, and so many others. Each of these doctors can diagnose, prescribe medication and order diagnostic tests/labs within their field of practice.Photo by Martin Brosy
So why would you go see someone with an MD?
These people have studied allopathy and know their way around prescriptions. They can help you with general health and give solid advice on medications and their network of other healthcare providers.
If you have moved to a new area and are looking for a doctor check out these articles.
This article has solid advice from Val Jones, who is herself an MD. While this article was written by Joel Keehn who takes a bit more of a basic approach. Both have some overlapping context, so make sure that those are high on your checklist for finding your perfect MD.

Doctor of Osteopathy – DO

I like the way that Michael Jonesco, DO states the focus of DO’s in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s article:

Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky“The osteopathic philosophy involves treating the mind, the body, and the spirit . . . the osteopathic approach is less about prescribing medications and medical procedures and more on the body trying to heal itself.”

DO’s go to school and are licensed the very similarly to MD’s. The biggest difference is that DO’s tend to get into practices that are more focused on prevention and maintaining health. This includes things like pediatrics, family medicine, general doctors, OB-GYN’s, and general surgeries. They too can prescribe medication (though not their go-to), diagnose ailments, and run labs/tests to better understand the patients’ needs. Once licensed they too are recognized and can work in all 50 States.
Finding a DO can be difficult, but this website may make it easier. It is important to make sure that your insurance still offers coverage. Because both MD’s and Do’s go through the same licensing process, this should not be a huge issue.
While I am not usually a huge fan of articles on WebMD, I can’t help but link Marisa Cohen’s article. It is a simple stated piece that gives you a full understanding of what to expect in a DO appointment. My hope is that this article will help you determine if a DO feels like a good fit for you.


Naturopathic Doctor – ND

Photo by Matt BrineyHere is where we start to move into the more holistic approaches of the healthcare world. Naturopathic doctors go through 4 years of school after their bachelor’s degrees. During school they take two board exams, one after the first 2 years and a second after 4 years.
Through school ND’s are meant to be able to help bridge the gap between traditional medicine and a broad range of other CAM’s. These complementary or alternative medicines (more info in Part 2 of this series) can be either science- or evidence-based.
In an article written by Trisha Torrey, explaining the difference between ND’s and naturopaths, she touches on a notable issue.

“Since naturopaths are not medical doctors their services may not be covered by your health insurance. However, not all states recognize naturopathic doctors with licensing . . .”

Photo by Pretty Drugthings

It’s true. Only 17 States plus DC, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico recognize ND licensing. A full list of the 17 States is provided here.
While this may be a huge deterrent to work with ND’s it’s important to understand what it is they offer. ND’s have a wide scope of alternative information. Meaning they have a lot of options for patients looking for more ways to attack a single problem. They also boast an impressive amount of one-on-one patient time. 90 minutes for a first session and 60 minutes for every follow up. ND’s are also very well known for their focus on the interrelatedness of the body. They will look at every aspect of your life and help you treat them as well: mind, body, and soul.
To find a naturopath near you, feel free to click here.

Chiropractors –

Photo by rawpixel After the list above, chiropractors are the next most frequently named form of care that I hear of. Now, I have only heard a mixed opinions when it comes to chiros. Some people think that chiropractors are God-sends and others have horror stories. I believe that this has to do with the varying degrees of focus within the practice. As Lana Burgess states in her article, “it is a good idea to find out whether a chiropractor takes a modern or straight approach.” Now she goes much more in depth in her article, but basically they are the opposite ends of the spectrum. The “straight” chiropractors believe that the alteration/alignment of the spine will help to heal all sorts of ailments. While modern chiros are those that make adjustments to assist with musculoskeletal pains and issues.

Photo by Joyce McCown
But what exactly do chiropractors do? An article written by the Cleveland Clinic helps clear up the confusion quiet well. They speak on the wide-ranging help that chiros can be to your body as a whole, not just neck and back pain. Another common misconception is what they can and cannot prescribe. They cannot write prescriptions, but they can prescribe other forms of alternative care. Once licensed, chiropractors may practice in all 50 States and 30 other countries.
Have you ever wondered what a chiropractic session is like? Look no further. In a wonderful article written by Nicole Long, she goes in depth about her first couple of visits. I would definitely say that this is the type of experience everyone should look for in a visit. Comprehensive, total body, and manipulations that feel good. You can read her full experience here.
If you are interested in finding a chiropractor, you can use this site to search for them.

Something Important to Remember When Finding the Right Health Care Provider for You

Photo by Aziz Acharki Photo by Daniel PáscoaThere are good and bad of everything. There are always going to be people who reach past their scope of practice. People who believe in the less scientific
approach and have a bit of a God-complex. It is important to remember that it does not matter the amount of school someone went through. What matters is that you feel safe and like your questions are answered. There are also people out there, in each and every scope of practice, that are phenomenal at what they do. Finding them may be hard, but do not let this deter you. These are the people who will be helping you with your health your whole life.
At the end of this series there will be a checklist of things to ask any new healthcare provider. This will help you to assess if you would like to continue working with them, whatever medicine they practice.
It is obviously better when you have the referral of someone you know and trust. But with the increasing number of people who are looking for healthcare providers it can be hard to get into any practice. This series is meant to help open your eyes to the possibilities of help out there for you.