Nurses Don't Want To Be Doctors

Nurse practitioners and other advanced practice professionals who use the title "doctor" with patients in care settings makes some physicians apoplectic. This reaction leaves advanced practice nurses fuming. It leaves me perplexed.

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 ...
Phyllis Kritek, RN, PhD (10/5/2011 at 1:06 PM)

Ms. Hendren, I was pleased to see you tackle this topic, and included my credentials since it seemed germane. I earned my doctoral degree in 1985 and have never asked any patient, or anyone for that matter, to call me Dr. I too am not a big fan of titles. I was startled at your solution though. It appears you suggest to address APRNs with doctoral degrees as "Dr" detracts from patient care. If the use of titles is troublesome, then it would seem it would be equally troublesome when physicians use it. There is a flawed logic in your recommendation. Why does the designation Dr detract from APRN care and not MD care? My experience says it can in both cases. The debate over the use of the title Dr. in health care is far more complex and political than you appear to realize. It has included the position of many in medicine who insist on the designation in part as an exercise in power or dominance, explained with "we have more education". Academics, most with PhDs, tend to be bemused by this. The fact is physicians do not necessarily have "more" education, merely different education. A more useful solution might be for all health care providers with a doctoral degree to simply elect to use the designation Dr when it appears to be beneficial to the patient, e.g., many elderly persons find it a comfort or a reassurance. Interestingly, this beneficial factor can apply to both RNs and MDs.
carol (10/5/2011 at 9:49 AM)

When are nurses and the talking heads going to speak the truth about this doctor/nurse thing? Most nurses could NOT go to medical school. Otherwise they would have. Nurse training is nowhere NEAR as difficult and demanding as nursing school. Please consider the facts. What percentage of candidates for nursing school get in? What percentage of candidates for medical school get in? What is the average college GPA of a physician? A nurse? Those studies? I urge people to look at the methodology behind that so called study. It was a self serving study based on nurse self reporting. Of course nurses want to be doctors, why else would they try to pass themselves off as such? We need honest dialogue.
Kevin Murphy [INVALID] Healthcare Attorney (10/4/2011 at 5:22 PM)

I agree with Ms. Hendren's analysis and overall opinion. One issue I would like to highlight is that severe physician shortages are leaving more people without adequate access to heath care, and, in my opinion, APNs are perfectly situated to alleviate industry constraints due to physician shortages and the additional of 30 million new people into the healthcare pool as a result of the passage of healthcare reform (Affordable Care Act). APNs are highly trained and skilled, and can effectively serve a large portion of society's medical needs. I hypothesize that APNs will be our next generation of 'Primary Caregivers' and that this will serve the best interests of our nation as a whole.


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