I originally wrote and published this article on The Barton Blog. Read the entire article on their website, and check out their open nurse practitioner positions while you're at it!
No longer are physicians the only healthcare professionals with a doctorate degree (i.e., MD or DO). Pharmacy recently transitioned to doctoral preparation, mandating that students earn a doctor of pharmacy degree (PharmD) in order to practice. Audiology (AuD), physical therapy (DPT), and occupational therapy (OTD) have also done the same.
Now,nurse practitioners arrive on the job with a doctor of nursing practice degree (DNP). When the entire healthcare team has a doctorate, the question arises, Who is the doctor? It seems simple enough — professionals with doctoral education go by “doctor.”
The public tends to associate the title “doctor” with the MD degree; however, they address other professionals this way, too:
The word “doctor” actually comes from the Latin term docere, meaning “to teach.” The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word as, “a learned or authoritative teacher; a person who has earned one of the highest academic degrees conferred by a university.” By these definitions, the title belongs to any person receiving a doctoral degree in any field.
Of Course, It’s Not That SimpleAs pharmacists, physical therapists, audiologists, and others began requiring doctorate degrees, nurse practitioners followed suit. Today, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) recommend that all new nurse practitioners earn a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
Whether nurse practitioners may address themselves as “doctor” has led to a contentious debate between physician-led and nurse-led organizations. In 2006, the American Medical Association (AMA) published Resolution 211 (A-06) titled, “Need to Expose and Counter Nurse Doctoral Programs Misrepresentation.”
This resolution states, “Nurses and other non-physician providers who hold doctoral degrees and identify themselves as doctors will create confusion, jeopardize patient safety, and erode the trust inherent in the true patient-physician relationship.” The resolution also asserts, “Patients led to believe they are receiving care from a doctor who is not a physician, but who is a DNP, may put their health at risk.”
A group of nurse practitioner organizations responded with a unified stance: physicians do not own the title “doctor.” This group reassured physicians that nurse practitioners have no intention of misrepresenting themselves as MDs — or as a DO, DDS, DMD, DPM, OD, PsyD, PharmD, DPT, OTD, or AuD, for that matter.
In addition, these nurse practitioner organizations responded to the accusation that DNPs put patients’ health at risk. Ongoing research for decades has demonstrated that nurse practitioners provide high-quality, safe, and effective care. For example, aNursing Economics systematic review abstracted onPubMedcompared nurse practitioner care with physician care and found no difference in patient satisfaction or patient health outcomes.
Finish reading this awesome article on The Barton Blog, and check out their open NP positions!