Over the past five years teaching in a health care MBA program, I had a number of students who were physical therapists. They had DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) degrees, worked at prestigious academic medical centers in NYC, but did not want to be, or were not called Doctor at work.
At one of the community hospitals in our system when I was a CEO, orthopedic surgeons (M.D.s) and podiatrists (DPMs) shared on-call for ankle (trauma) surgery. It was never clear enough for me that the patients were appropriately informed.
I went to the VA Hospital for a hearing test and was seen by Dr. Jones, an audiologist (Au.D)
The discussion became a kerfuffle by an article in the New York Times: “HI. I’m Dr. Patti McCarver, and I’m your nurse,” she said. And with that, Dr. McCarver stuck a scope in Ms. Cassidy’s ear, noticed a buildup of fluid and prescribed an allergy medicine. It was something that will become increasingly routine for patients: a someone who is not a physician using the title of doctor. Dr. McCarver calls herself a doctor because she returned to school to earn a doctorate last year, one of thousands of nurses doing the same recently. Doctorates are popping up all over the health professions, and the result is a quiet battle over not only the title “doctor,” but also the money, power and prestige that often come with it.” *
We are familiar with M.D. and D.O. (physicians). Many other clinicians are called doctor such as your dentist (D.M.D.), chiropractor (D.C.), and optometrist (OD), occasionally confused with ophthalmologists (M.D.).
Now many disciplines have doctoral degrees.
A patient (and family) on an acute rehabilitation medicine unit at a teaching hospital might be treated by a team of doctors including: a physiatrist (M.D.); a nurse manager (D.N.P., Ph.D, or Ed.D); a pharmacist (Pharm.D); a physical therapist (D.P.T.); a social worker (D.S.W.); a psychologist (Psy.D.); an audiologist (Au.D.); an occupational therapist (DrOT); and a speech pathologist (SLP.D).
Every clinician with a doctoral degree has earned the respect to be called doctor but should be wearing a name tag that includes name, degree, and clinical profession such as: Mary Green, M.D., Neurology Resident; Stan Brown, D.N.P., Nurse Practitioner; or Chris Magenta, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist.
If you are not certain who is treating you, ASK!!!
*When the Nurse Wants to Be Called ‘Doctor’