Sticks and Stones
It may be because I'm a writer, but I think the words we choose matter in shaping people's perceptions and, eventually, our world. When I was a child, every female person was either a "Mrs." or a "Miss," signaling that a woman's relationship to a man is what defines her. A woman's social standing was embedded in how she was addressed: Mrs. John Doe is married; Mrs. Jane Doe is widowed or divorced. But who knows that rule anymore? See, the world has changed already.
One long-running discussions among ADVANCE readers has been how to refer to nurse practitioners without stigmatizing the profession. "Mid-level provider," "nonphysician provider" and, my favorite horrifying phrase, "physician extender" all signal that NPs exist only relation to physicians. Insist on "nurse practitioner."
Now, with more and more NPs earning doctoral degrees, the title "doctor" has become contentious, with the AMA condemning the use of the term by health care professionals who aren't physicians. Some states have even considered legislation banning use of "doctor" by anyone other than a physician, a dentist or a veterinarian.
The only reason this move sounds remotely plausible is that "doctor" has become shorthand for "physician" in common language. Ask Mrs. Jane Doe what her former spouse does for a living, and she'll tell you he's a doctor. "Doctor of what?" you should ask.
One way to change this common perception that "doctor" means "medical doctor" is to always refer to this profession as "physicians." Then all those doctors of divinity, doctors of education, doctors of philosophy — and doctors of nursing practice can reclaim their hard work.