At the Healthcare Entrepreneur blog, Tannus Quatre, PT offers a sensible perspective on why non-physician clinicians (mainly nurses) should not be referred to as “doctor,” even if they have a doctoral degree.
March 10, 2009
What I don’t support… is the liberal, unrestricted use of the word “doctor” for anyone who has earned a doctoral degree. The argument that I would cite for this has to do with protecting the consumerism, if not safety, of our patients. Consumers of healthcare services are not privy to the [often legitimate] turf wars that are waged between competing professions, nor can they understand the professional and political ramifications of discipline-specific terminology such as ”doctor,” “physical therapist,” and “nurse.” These battles are necessarily fierce, but they simply cannot undermine our collective responsibility to ensure that patients know who is a physician, and who is not.
For persons and professions that have a legitimate need to elevate themselves through the umbrella of a “doctoral” credential, by all means they should do so — in front of an audience who can understand the credential and place it within the appropriate clinical or educational context. I would strongly caution however against persons or professions who create even the slightest ambiguity about their clinical scope of practice through use of the term “doctor.” It can easily mislead our patients, creating a situation whereby more harm than good can occur.