A Change in Direction
Updated: May 10
This post was written in 2019 when I had just left practice as a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and was looking for work as a full-time health coach. This is the only post I saved from that practice/ blog because I thought it told the story of changing my career, even if it seemed like the wrong thing to those around me. This picture symbolizes the uphill journey it has been, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. God has grown me in amazing and unexpected ways through this journey.
"Why are you taking a step back in your career?"
I was in an interview for a job that I desperately wanted as a health and wellness coach. I was caught off guard. I had not considered that it could be seen that way. Yes, I am trained and (currently) licensed as a doctor. From the time I was in middle school when I was first allowed to watch the TV show ER, wanted to be a doctor.
As I got older (and took college-level chemistry), I realized that I was not meant for the life of an emergency room physician. Too much stress and anxiety for my already sensitive heart. I changed directions to study health education, knowing that I still wanted to help people be healthy.
In my mid 20's I came across Naturopathic Medicine and saw my first ND. The first appointment was almost 90 minutes long and the majority of it was spent discussing healthy behaviors and the small and simple things I could be doing to improve my health. I was captivated and within a few months had enrolled at the community college to finish up the prerequisites I needed to apply to school to become a Naturopathic Doctor. I realized I could still fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor, even if it wasn't wearing green scrubs at a county hospital ER.
At the beginning of my 3rd year of ND school, I was burnt out. I went down to part-time (which was still more than 15 graduate-level credits) while I sorted through what I wanted.
I knew I wanted to help others be healthy.
I knew I loved the world of natural medicine and how it empowers people to take ownership of their health.
I knew I didn't want to be the doctor, that I always thought I would be.
I was already more than halfway through and I didn't want to quit (some might say I am stubborn, I say I am determined). I finished ND school and graduated only 9 months past my original expected graduation. After graduation, I took board exams like everyone else and got licensed in my home state of Oregon. I opened up my own practice, that in hindsight, looked a lot more like a health coaching practice than a medical practice. After only a year in practice as a doctor/coach, my husband and I relocated to another state, and within 6 months I was working at a clinic with another wonderful ND. And practicing as the doctor that I didn't want to be.
After about 6 months at that practice, I decided that I would enroll at the Mayo Clinic and study to take the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches exam. I continued to see a few patients here and there while working towards the hours I needed to sit for the exam. At the end of 15 months there, I said goodbye to my mentor and left private practice.
I didn't get the job that I mentioned at the beginning of the post. I understand now why it looks as though I am taking a step back. Why would anyone go to naturopathic medical school and then not practice as a doctor when they get out? I don't think I could have put it into words then, and even during my interview this summer I couldn't find the words to explain it. It turns out, that even though I thought I wanted to be the 'doctor', it was never the goal. Helping people be healthy was the goal. Going to ND school allowed me to learn about health and wellness from a whole-person approach. I understand medical conditions, nutrition, labs, and treatment (natural and allopathic) better than most people, and definitely better than the average health coach.
I do not regret going to school to become a 'doctor' and then not using it. The truth is, I use it, every day.
When I think about what I am going to eat for breakfast.
When I invite my neighbor to a restorative yoga class.
When I opt for herbal teas to fight illness rather than grabbing an OTC cold medicine.
When I walk into a grocery store and read the food labels before buying my groceries for the week.
When I think about empowering people around me to think critically about the health information they see on Instagram, Facebook, and the internet.
When a friend tells me that following the latest wellness trend has left her discouraged.
No. It is not a step back in my career. It is just a different path than most people take. A path that has enriched my life, the life of my family, the life of my friends, and most importantly, the lives of my future health coaching clients.