It’s all in the title, professionally speaking that is
In The New York Times, a doctor recently recalled an absurdity she’d observed as a first-year intern: Even though she hadn’t yet begun her career, critical care nurses with decades of experience addressed her as “doctor” while the nurses themselves were called by their first names. Does it bother you that nurses aren’t given a title of respect—no matter what your level of expertise? How would you prefer to be addressed?
As we all know, nurses and physicians have a unique working relationship. Lately the question of professionalism and courtesy have surfaced. Specifically, in this case, how you’re being addressed by doctors and patients, and how you in turn address the physician.
I have had some pretty flexible professional relationships with some very distinguished surgeons and physicians. In almost all cases I have addressed them as ‘Dr. [insert last name]’. On occasion I have said ‘Dr. [insert first name]’.
The physicians in turn call me by my first name – Sean. So do the patients. I’ve never been called Nurse Dent, nor have I been called Nurse Sean. It’s always been Sean, nothing more.
When I answer the phone at work, I always say “… this is Sean, how may I help you”. I never say this is ‘Sean, RN’, or ‘Nurse Sean’.
(I promise there’s a point to my rambling)
I have only ever called a physician by his first name once. I had an exceptional rapport with him, and he actually requested to be called by his first name. (I admit, it took me a long time to call him by his first name). Is it ‘old school’ thinking that all doctors should be addressed with their title? What is it in me that causes me to feel a lil’ uncomfortable otherwise? And why do I require myself to address the doctor with their title, but do not require myself or others to address me as ‘Nurse’??
I spend a lot of waking hours defending the notion that the profession of nursing has grown and that the misconception of nurses as the doctor’s handmaid needs to be stamped out and beaten down with a baseball bat. The profession of nursing has evolved. That notion ranks right up there with the white skirted outfit with the complimentary white cap and the sexy nurse fantasy. GRR.
So why the double standard? Why professionally address the doctor with his title, and not require/want to be professionally addressed in the same manner? I adamantly admit – I would never want to be addressed as ‘Nurse Sean’. I rather enjoy the personal nature of being called by my first name, and not a title. (I also embarrassingly admit that hearing a nurse called with the word nurse gets me thinking about the movie ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ with Nurse Ratched)
I hate to think it, but are my actions are creating a double standard within my fight to defend the growth of my profession?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
This article is mentioned in the Spring 2010 print edition of Scrubs Magazine, which can be found at uniform retail stores nationwide or purchased online. Go to http://scrubsmag.com/magazine for a peek inside and to find out where you can get your copy!