November 23, 2011
What is in a Title That Has People Upset?
This is a most interesting article and presents a very real problem for title conscious people. Some doctors do seem the have their noses out of joint a little too much, but some are very understanding and tolerant. The discussion centers on the fact that many nurses and dietitians now are getting their PhD's and are being called doctor in the workplace. The question really becomes a problem in distinguishing nurse practitioners and physician assistants with PhDs from licensed MDs.
Of the participants involved in the discussion, a solid majority had a strong negative reaction. Most of it revolved around the amount of education and medical residency MDs are required to have and not the nurse practitioners or physician assistants to say nothing about the registered dietitians that have earned their PhDs.
Some of physicians were very specific in their denouncing of people with PhDs being called doctor in the medical setting. Calling them liars and saying that they were deceiving people were just a few of the examples used. A few were even more senile calling nurse’s enemies.
Now I want to emphasize the more positive side of the discussion. A few said they had no problems with them being recognized for their education. One stated, "I personally don't have any qualms about calling someone else with a doctorate doctor. So it's OK if the nurse doctorates are called doctor. It's only a word."
Others felt that adopting the British system was an answer. That means using the word Mr. or Ms. And using this for people with medical licenses. I liked this suggestion and for patients hearing this, it would be more comforting. An emergency room doctor offered another solution: "Let's stop introducing ourselves as Dr. So-and-So. Instead of 'Hello, Mr. Smith. I'm Dr. Jones,' we could say, 'Hello, Mr. Smith. I'm Chris Jones and I'm the ER doctor/physician.' The bottom line: Emphasize our role and not our title."
One general practitioner blasted the title itself: "I don't like the pretentious prefix doctor at all...Use of such prefixes encourages patients to put the physician on a pedestal, and the physicians, of course, love it since they then don't have to say too much and [it] keeps their patients awed."
Most participants disagreed and wanted to preserve the title. As a patient, I prefer the attitude of the last two comments above. Physicians that want us to put them on a pedestal do not deserve this from patients. They must earn this through their actions and treatment of their patients as humans. A title for sake of the title does not deserve respect from patients until they earn it and education alone is not proof that they deserve a title. Even people with PhDs must earn their title by their actions and the way they treat people they serve. Yes, I said serve, because they do serve us as patients. They teach, advise, and are supposed to work with us to help us manage our chronic illness.