Nurses Being Called “Doctor”

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The NY Times has run yet another article on the “outrage” that some physicians feel related to nurses with doctoral degrees using the title “Doctor.”  Am I the only one getting tired on reading about this? Back in January of 2009, there was another article titled Health Controversy: Is Your “Doctor” Really a Nurse?  that ran in another publication. Here is my response to that journalist and anyone else who poses the question:

There have long been nurses with doctoral degrees whose title is ‘Dr.’ That is not something new. Anyone with a doctoral degree has always had the right to use that title and many nurses have done so. Your statement that “they’re bestowed the title ‘doctor’ even though they haven’t gone through medical school” implies they might somehow be misrepresenting themselves or don’t have the same rights that anyone in any profession has to use the title ‘doctor’ at that level of education. Physicians do not own that right. In fact, because of that ongoing confusion and the fact that many nurses already possess the title “doctor”, many nurses deliberately refer to MDs and DOs as physicians rather than doctors since that title could just as easily belong to a nurse or psychologist or even an administrator for that matter. The new DNP – Doctor of Nursing Practice – degree, as well as the push to have advanced practice nurses have a doctoral degree has stirred up the current discussion. And while it may cause some confusion, there are not any nurses who wish to misrepresent themselves. They do and should always clearly state their position and title just as a physician or any other healthcare provider should/does. Funny thing is, with the gender stereotypes that exist in our society, almost any man in scrubs in the healthcare setting is often mistakenly called “doctor” by patients and staff alike just as some female doctors as sometimes assumed to be nurses. The point being, there are many sources of ongoing confusion which is why clearly displayed (and easy to read) name badges and a proper introduction are important in the healthcare setting.

4 thoughts on “Nurses Being Called “Doctor””

  1. Like your remarks. Taking the objections to the logical end, does that mean that psychologists will no longer be addressed as Dr, and that chiropractors will no longer be addressed as Dr, and that podiatrists will no longer be addressed as Dr? I think not.

  2. EKG Interpretation

    That this controversy exists at all is amusing to me. In the corporate world, most everyone is on a first name basis, PhD or not. It seems to me that only in government and medicine are these titles clung to so tightly.

  3. How many physicians have referred to their secretary or their medical assistant as their ‘nurse’? Now that is misleading!

  4. Reply to Barb regarding physicians referring to secretary or med assistant as nurse-that is so true! It happens all the time and I just hate that. Good one.

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