A sensible response to Dr. Nurse

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.

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.

March 10, 2009

2 thoughts on “A sensible response to Dr. Nurse”

  1. I seem to recall when Roger Clemens was at the steroid hearing he claimed that he thought Brian McNamee, his trainer, was a “doctor.” In reality, McNamee has a PhD. This article http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3153874 says: “While trying to expand beyond his Yankees training duties, McNamee began referring to himself as Dr. McNamee in his side gigs. He was featured in InVite’s promotional magazine as “Dr. Brian McNamee, Ph.D,” used the e-mail address “McNameePHD,” and told people he had earned his doctorate at Columbus University in Louisiana. Columbus now operates out of Mississippi, after the state of Louisiana shut it down in 2001 for being a “diploma mill,” churning out degrees to people who did little or no academic work.” Who knows if Clemens really thought he was a medical doctor or not (anything’s possible — except that he didn’t know he was taking steroids!) but here’s a perfect example of what you’re saying.

  2. If “doctor” refers to anyone who has achieved a doctorate level in their academic field, then so be it. It is not the medical field’s choice to claim sole rights to the term doctor. Be smarter and less fearful about metamorphic words. Refer to yourselves as internist, cardiologist, gynecologist, obstetrician, pharmacologist etc. We’ll catch on. I haven’t seen my ‘Medicine Man’ in ages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *