The Doctor Debate
Graduation is only a few weeks away. Soon I'll have a brand new DPT to put behind my name. The closer it gets, the more people ask me if they have to call me doctor. I find that an interesting question. The DPT is a doctorate level degree. Therefore the title doctor is appropriate. No one disputes that. Everyone agrees I will have a doctorate degree. At the same time none of those people believe I should be referred to as a doctor.
Obviously a DPT is not the same as a medical degree. Individuals with PhDs are also traditionally referred as doctors although those who teach sometimes limit it to the educational setting. Pharm Ds are doctors of pharmacology. I don't think I've ever heard one referred to as Dr. So-and-So, but they are nonetheless recognized as having doctorate degrees. Using this logic, a doctorate degree entitles the person to be called doctor.
I've been told I'm not really a doctor. The DPT is only an entry-level degree. Those statements were made by a fellow PT and are inaccurate. A bachelor's degree is entry level. A doctorate degree, in any field, is considered advanced training. A PhD in psychology isn't considered an entry-level degree, nor is a doctorate in nursing. He later amended his statement that I actually would be a doctor because mine was a transitional degree and therefore not entry level.
Everyone in my department has already assumed I won't expect to be called doctor. One said it would confuse the physicians. Another said it would sound like I have a PhD. No one thinks I should be referred to as a doctor in departmental meetings, correspondence or in reference with patients. I can have DPT on my badge and that's about it.
Even though I don't agree with that logic, I understand the point. I would be the only DPT on staff. Calling me doctor would be confusing. The hospital culture is for everyone but medical staff to use first names with patients. Besides, I doubt if I would answer to Dr. Patt if someone called me that. I know it would take a few repetitions before I'd realize someone was talking to me.
The problem is perception. The perception of the DPT is that it is the same thing as a PT or MSPT, only with more years of schooling. We've pushed and pushed to have a doctorate degree but done nothing to illustrate what it means to the medical community. I understand some parts of the country are better about this than others and I suspect Texas is behind the curve. The APTA needs to take note. No one is going to call us doctor or recognize us as a doctoring professional until the perception of what the DPT is changes. If I insist, I will be called doctor. That I would have to insist defeats the purpose.
Personally I don't care. I don't need another title. But I do care about the profession. It may take several years until the DPT practitioners outnumber the PT and MSPT practitioners for anything to change. If everyone has the title and insists on being called by the title things will change. This is something that has to come from everyone. I think we're going to need to have many more practicing DPTs before we can expect to be called doctor automatically.