Training, Schools, and Degree Programs for Integrative Medicine in the U.S.
The Academy of Integrated Health and Medicine emerged in 2013 and the field continues to develop and grow. Integrative medicine combines complementary and alternative medical approaches with traditional medicine. Depending on what type of medical professional you are, or want to be, there are several different training programs, fellowships, and degrees available in integrative medicine.
In general, complementary and integrative health care practitioners take a holistic approach to patient care, treating the patient as a whole person rather than a set of symptoms. They focus both on addressing acute symptoms such as pain, as well as on preventing and caring for patients with chronic disease. The goal of treatment extends beyond healing illness to well-being.
According to Lisa McDonald, owner of Integrated Connections, a search and placement firm that specializes in recruiting medical professionals in integrated medicine, “there are so many different programs out there offering education in integrative medicine, it’s difficult to know which programs are the best—that’s why it’s also critical to obtain your licensure or certification from accredited institutions.”
McDonald suggests referring to websites of national professional societies for the integrative medical profession in which you are interested. Following are some examples she provided as some of the best resources and organizations to contact first, or to read online on their websites and research available degrees, programs, and careers.
Integrative Vs. Traditional
It is important to research careers in integrative medicine first before pursuing one because these careers are more widely accepted in some areas and communities more than others. Also, integrative medicine offers a completely different approach than traditional medicine, and some health insurance companies do not recognize all of these professions. Therefore, often, careers in integrative medicine may not pay as much as careers in traditional medicine. If income and job security are on the top of your list of career needs, you may want to consider a more traditional healthcare career path. However, with that said, many experts hope and predict that these integrative medicine careers will soon be in as high demand as their traditional counterparts.
American Holistic Nurses Association
According to Lisa McDonald, the integrative medicine training program offered for nurses by the AHNA is accredited and recognized by the ANA (American Nurses Association) as an official nursing specialty.
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
Physicians who practice an integrative approach to medicine (naturopathy) are called naturopaths, or NDs.
American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Acupuncturists are increasing in demand and popularity and are more frequently being prescribed and utilized in conjunction with more traditional Western medical therapies.
American Chiropractic Association
Chiropractors obtain a doctorate level degree from an accredited school of chiropractic.
Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, or AzCIM, provides additional training in integrative medicine for medical professionals who are already trained in traditional Western medicine, according to Lisa McDonald. AzCIM offers fellowships and a residency training programs for physicians (MD/DO), nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs) and more.
Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine
The Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine (AIHM) offers certification in Integrative Holistic Medicine for both allopathic and osteopathic physicians (MD or DO).