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Good news/bad news: Who gets to be called Doctor?

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There’s good news and there’s bad news. This week, we present an issue and ask for your take. Is it good for patients? Bad for nurses? Do you care?

Good or Bad? You decide:

There’s no dispute that medical doctors have traditionally had the singular label, “Doctor,” to themselves. For instance, if you’re going to see a physics professor with a doctorate degree, you wouldn’t typically say, “I’m going to the doctor.” The other side of that coin is that you also wouldn’t have a problem calling him Dr. Smith once you arrived.

All of this is to introduce a new issue emerging in the healthcare world, one where medical doctors want to keep the term “Doctor” to themselves. The stem of the controversy comes from the fact that more and more other medical professionals – nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, for example – are earning doctorate degrees.

A report in the New York Times highlights the facts that many physicians are uncomfortable with other medical professionals labeling themselves doctor, even when they hold a doctorate degree. Doctors feel this can lead to patient confusion about their care.

The New York state senate currently is reviewing a proposed bill that would prevent nurses from calling themselves doctors, regardless of the degree they hold. Similar laws are already on the books in Arizona, Delaware and other states prohibit nurses from calling themselves doctors unless they immediately identify their profession.

What do you think? Should nurses be forced to conceal their doctorate degrees? Let us know in the comment section below.


New York Times



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3 Responses to Good news/bad news: Who gets to be called Doctor?

  1. Pingback: Entitlement of the ‘Doctor’ title « My Strong Medicine

  2. acosenza2 RN

    I have thought about this as I certainly plan to go further in my education and have definitely considered a doctoral degree. I do not think that nurses should hide their degree no matter what that degree may be. If a nurse clearly identifies his or herself to the patient I do not see the issue here ie “Hi my name is Dr. X, I will be your nurse today”. Ordinarily I introduce myself to my patients using my first name though so I do not see this as much of an issue either way.

    In professional circles and events, business cards etc etc I would most certainly not hide my degree and would go by Dr. So-and-so.

  3. wkiemle Caption Contest

    I firmly believe all nurses everywhere ought to be proud of their education always. We work extremely hard every single day. We work hard at work, at home, at school. When we are with a patient, however, we usually use our first names. I may simply be old, but I was taught that I had to use my first name with patients. I must use their last names as a sign of respect, but I must introduce myself using my first name. The psychology of it is to create a level of comfort for the patient. They want to be taken care of by Betty, not Mrs. Stone. Betty cares and is willing to sit on the bed with them and hold their hand and listen to their concerns. Betty will hold their hair when they puke. Mrs. Stone will just offer an emesis basin and tell the CNA to clean them up.

    Patients do not care about the degree you hold. They care that someone is caring enough to hold their hands, rub their backs and offer words of kindness.
    Being required to conceal my education would do nothing except stroke the egos of the physicians. The same ones that give the nurses a hard time in the first place.