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Nurses Don't Want To Be Doctors

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, October 4, 2011

Nurses don't want to be doctors. Advanced practice nurses could have chosen medical school if they wanted to become doctors. Instead, they chose to expand their study of nursing through advanced practice programs such as anesthesia, nurse practitioners, or the rapidly expanding doctorate in nursing practice.

Choosing further study in the nursing profession is a commitment to the nursing model, which emphasizes holistic patient care. Nurses approach their profession in a very different manner than physicians approach theirs and both are valuable and necessary to the overall provision of care in this country. Indeed, given the physician shortage, particularly in rural areas, the only way to meet the country's needs for primary care is through advanced practice nurses.

So advanced practice nurses are necessary, vital, and supported by the public. Study after study has shown equal, or in some cases better, outcomes in patient care from advanced practice nurses. A study in the northwest last year revealed patients found nurse practitioner care just as good as physician care and the nurse practitioners were rated higher for listening, bedside manner, and spending time with patients.

Advanced practice nurses must be celebrated for their quality of care and for the ways they approach providing care. But calling them 'doctor' can take away from that perspective. I'm not a big fan of titles and don't see why using doctor is a benefit.

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6 comments on "Nurses Don't Want To Be Doctors"


Robert Dimick (11/26/2011 at 11:06 PM)
This lady is "not big on titles", obviously because she wants to use the title of "doctor" for those who have not earned it. If she is "not big on titles" why not just refer to all nurses, APN, or otherwise, as "Miss"? Let's see how popular that title is with the nurses!

Karl Vanhooten (10/7/2011 at 11:33 AM)
I love to address a colleague I have who is an MD, MPH, and PhD as Doctor, Master, Doctor. Really ticks him off. C'mon people; get over yourselves and just take care of the patient. MDs had dibs on the title in healthcare over 100 years ago, long before academic PhDs entered the patient care arena. Should I call a retired PhD who volunteers as a gray lady, Doctor Jones?

M Luttrell, PhD, NP (10/6/2011 at 4:27 PM)
I must agree with previous post[INVALID]I believe the issue is more about age-old turf protection and politics, and perhaps some defense out of fear of more health care professionals earning higher credentials. All doctorates are academic credentials and from different disciplines. The title denotes a basic respect for the knowledge obtained and the discipline required to earn that terminal degree achievement, no matter the subject area. I did not realized that those with MDs have wholesale ownership of the title "doctor"(!). Excellent, team driven, cost-effective and evidence-driven patient care is what matters, not such petty title battles. Let's put this energy into what's important. To the MDs so concerned I continue to say professional respect is a two-way exchange. To review some US medical history: it wasn't that long ago when many informally, lay-trained individuals practiced medicine under the title of "doctor" without the MD in hand ...