Learn About Natural Health Careers
Natural Health & Alternative Medicine Careers Overview
Natural health careers are thriving because of society's wellness boom, making today a great time to join the rewarding profession...
This discipline offers many natural health careers, treatments and health care practices that are beginning to be recognized in the medical community as natural healing arts that promote wellness through disease prevention. In fact, according to a CDC National Health Statistics report, "Approximately 38 percent of adults in the United States aged 18 years and over, and nearly 12 percent of U.S. children aged 17 years and under, use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)." As these healing methods continue to become integrated with mainstream health care, the outlook for careers in the natural healing field remain strong. This is why alternative medicine careers have seen such tremendous growth.
Alternative Medicine and Natural Health Careers
are Recognized in Mainstream Health Care
It is exciting to note the increasing acceptance and visibility of alternative, natural health and complementary forms of healing—especially in specialty areas like chiropractic, acupuncture and herbal therapy that are less known by the general public.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines complementary and alternative medicine careers as "a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine." These intriguing natural health alternatives have been practiced for thousands of years, but are just beginning to be recognized in mainstream Western culture.
- In a 2007 survey, NCCAM found that 68 percent of Americans believe that massage combined with conventional medicine can help treat their condition. Another 41 percent say that a conventional medicine professional has recommended massage as part of their treatment.
- According to a 2006 survey by the American Massage Therapy Association, one out of every six Americans gets a massage each year. Among those surveyed, 40 percent said that they have had a massage to relieve pain.
- Over 1.6 million Americans use alternative medicine for insomnia or trouble sleeping according to scientists at NCCAM.
- Nearly three fourths of US medical schools offer elective courses in alternative and complementary medicine or include it in required courses.
A report developed by the Institute for Alternative Futures noted that today, complementary and alternative approaches to health and medicine are among the fastest growing aspects of health care. This reported concluded the following statistics:
- In 1990, one third of the US population used some form of alternative approach to health care, and by the year 2010 at least two thirds will.
- There will be dramatic growth in numbers among the complementary and alternative health professions. For example, health care professionals (including physicians) trained in Chinese or Oriental medicine will swell to 24,000 by the year 2010. The number of chiropractors will nearly double by then from 55,000 to 103,000.
In addition, in the last decade, natural health and alternative medicine careers have really made its way into the media and mainstream consciousness.
- In 2007, the NCCAM and the National Center for Health Statistics reported that more than 45 percent of all Americans have used some form of alternative medicine. Here are some of the most common used therapies among US adults:
- Many doctors and nurses now seek information and continuing education in natural medicine modalities.
- Natural health degree schools and practitioners also promote research to validate and further their professions (for example, some natural healing arts schools now have their own research departments).
- Collaborative healing arts centers and integrative medicine clinics are opening up across the US to address the needs of the whole person from a variety of healing arts perspectives.
- Moreover, patient demand for health insurance coverage for natural therapies is increasing as people want improved access to alternative therapies.
Natural Healing Modalities
Many natural healing modalities focus on treating the root cause of a patient's symptoms, as opposed to the symptoms themselves. The practitioners look at a person as whole, or holistically, considering the physical body, the mind, emotions and spirit of the patient. Many modalities are unique in that they assist the body in healing itself by jump-starting the body's innate healing wisdom. Much of natural healing involves preventative measures as well, with the practitioner educating and treating people to prevent health problems from arising.
These therapies come from many places. Some have been developed over the past 100 years in Western cultures, while others, which are thousands of years old, trace their roots to India and China. Natural healing modalities are used in many ways. Some therapies are used alone; some in combination with other natural therapies, and still others are used in addition to conventional, allopathic medical care.
More Individualized Care
Many healing modalities incorporate more contact time per patient than the Western medical model. The practitioner often takes more time to learn about the person, conduct the assessment and provide treatment. A natural health practitioner may ask questions that delve into other aspects of the patient's life beyond the physical symptoms. Overall, there is a greater emphasis on the importance of the patient/practitioner relationship.
Natural health practitioners often look at a patient's diet, lifestyle, exercise habits, energy, emotions, dreams, and much more to get the complete picture of one's health. Many times it's a combination of factors that affect one's health: nutritional deficiencies, poor digestion, food allergies, toxicity from environmental pollutants, or mental or emotional stress, overuse of antibiotics. Treatments may last from half an hour to 50 minutes for a massage, or up to 2 hours for a first visit to a naturopath or acupuncturist, compared with seven to 15 minutes for a conventional medicine office visit.
Abundant Career Opportunities
Some students of the healing arts find themselves in private practice or in practitioner groups after several months of schooling, while other natural healing careers require three to five years of preparation and training. Potential students, as well as practitioners already in the field, are seeing training programs (and continuing education) become more standardized, more schools are gaining accreditation, and many modalities are experiencing increased regulations and licensing requirements in their fields.
Overall, practitioners trained in the natural healing arts are experiencing tremendous career opportunities in a climate of support, growth, collaboration and integration. While some practitioners have a private practice, others work for clinics, wellness centers, and other companies. Some healing modalities, once considered fringe, are now deemed "mainstream," and other ancient healing traditions are enjoying newfound interest, curiosity and acceptance. Natural health is an area to watch as more healing modalities continue to emerge and become an integral part of how we heal ourselves.
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National Institute of Health, 2009.
Department of Health and Human Services, 2009.
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