What’s In a Name? Nurses as Doctors
"Hi. I'm Dr. Patti McCarver, and I'm your nurse."
That's how an Oct. 1 New York Times article describes a nurse-patient interaction in a primary care setting. McCarver is a nurse practitioner who recently earned a doctorate.
The trend of nurses earning doctor of nursing practice degrees has spawned a backlash from some physicians, who claim use of the term "doctor" by anyone other than a medical doctor could lead to confusion on the part of healthcare consumers.
The article quotes American Academy of Family Physicians Board Chair Roland Goertz, MD, MBA, as stating "There is real concern that the use of the word ‘doctor' will not be clear to patients."
At issue is who will be the first to treat patients, and therefore gain access to healthcare dollars. NP prescribing laws that require MD supervision are part of the discussion.
In New York, a Senate bill (S02250) was proposed in January that defines who and who cannot use the term "doctor."
The bill "[r]estricts use of the title ‘doctor' in advertisements to medical doctors, dentists, chiropractors, veterinarians, podiatrists and optometrists who have received a degree in the appropriate profession and have met all professional requirements of the appropriate program registered by the New York state education department or accredited by an accrediting organization acceptable to such department or are otherwise licensed to practice in the state of New York," according to a summary on the state Assembly's website.
After many years' of discussion regarding the value of requiring a higher level of education to become a registered nurse, opposition to nurses calling themselves what they are according to the degree they have earned - doctor - is puzzling. With national healthcare reform promising to increase the number of patients requiring primary care, it seems a step backward to argue over terminology rather than focus on how that care can best be delivered. And nurses cannot be left out of that equation, no matter what they're called.
Is there a reason I'm missing why nurses with doctorate degrees shouldn't be known as doctors?