Confusion About "Doctor"
The American College of Clinicians recently adopted a position statement titled, "The Use of the Term Doctor in the Clinical Setting."
The ACC concludes that there could be some confusion, but that it really isn't a big deal. Makes a lot of sense.
Today, many healthcare professionals besides physicians possess a doctorate. An increasingly diverse group of clinical professionals will possess this degree in the future. For many years psychologists, nurses, clinical social workers, pharmacists, physical therapists, podiatrists, optometrists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants have obtained the highest level of education possible in their field and have been granted doctorates.
Several professions have recently announced that the doctorate is to become the entry level degree for their professional practice. We predict that over the next decade most professions that prescribe, diagnose or treat patients will likely require a doctorate to practice. These professions will have a significant number of clinicians practicing at the doctoral level.
Understandably, physicians are concerned about this shift and the confusion it brings. We understand their concern in regard to the use of the term doctor. The American Medical Association has considered adopting official positions that would restrict the use of the term doctor to physicians, dentists and podiatrists (and also restrict the terms "resident" and "residency"). We ask how this would be achieved as no profession can own an academic title? It is the belief of organized medicine that the use of the term doctor by other health care professions will create confusion. We agree with this assertion, as even positive change can be confusing. What we do not agree with is that this temporary period of confusion will result in any significant disruption or decrease in the quality of healthcare that is provided.
We also do not agree with the view that many physicians espouse; that other professionals want to earn a doctorate because they want to be somehow viewed as a physician. State laws protect professional titles and any undesignated person who uses the title physician is breaking those laws. The ACC agrees strongly that it is inappropriate to violate title protection in any form. However, the ACC also recognizes the critical difference between the word physician and the use of the title Dr.