Home Forums The Controversy of the DOCTOR Title Earned Doctoral Degree

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • Author
  • #45455
    April Snell

    Nurse practitioners that have earned a doctorate degree worked just as hard earning their DNP as the Ph.D’s, DSW’s, and PsyD’s that I work with in an integrated care outpatient clinic. I have never been involved in a discussion as to whether or not to refer to a Psychologist, Doctor of Social Work, or Doctor of Psychology as any other title than “Dr” within my clinical setting that includes NP’s, PA’s, MD’s, DO’s, PhD’s, DSW’s, and PsyD’s. Those that have earned a doctoral degree (DNP) should be referred to as a Doctor just as our peers who earned a terminal degree. I believe this is out of respect for an earned doctoral degree. I have never experienced any of the above mentioned terminal degree’s having to differentiate themselves to peers or patients during introductions out of fear of being confused with an MD.

    April Snell


    Hello April,

    as a new graduate nurse, and a current DNP student, I appreciate the examples of different “Dr” who are called “Doctor” that you gave. I agree with your stance, I don’t believe I have ever seen a PA, DO, or DSW be confused for an MD, however in my clinic all of those healthcare professionals are called “Doctor.” If the only reason to not call DNP’s “Doctor” is based on the possibility for role confusion with an MD, there should be little to no debate that all other disciplines must also refrain from using the title “Doctor.” However, I do believe that those who put in the arduous work and time into obtaining their Doctorate in Nursing Practice should be addressed with the same respect and title as an MD.

    Kevin Kim

    Hello April!

    Thank you for your take on the title of the Doctor for the role of the Nurse Practitioner. I agree with you that like many other professionals who have earned their Doctorate degree, NPs should also be able to utilize this title. The word Dr in context of title refers more to the education degree as you have mentioned. I understand that patients may get confused in a clinical setting but there are times when I feel this negative perspective seems targets towards the NP. As you have mentioned above, there are other healthcare professionals that utilize the term Doctor in a clinical setting but face less backlash. I think the term Dr should be up to each NP/ healthcare professional on what they prefer to be called. As long as it is clarified that the NP is not a Medical Doctor or MD and explains to the patient that they are a Nurse Practitioner I do not see a major issue. Outside of the healthcare field I have seen this debate as well. Recently First Lady Jill Biden or Doctor Biden was also the subject of scrutiny for utilizing the title Doctor. She has a Doctorate in education and has never stated that she was a medical doctor but was still under fire for referring to herself as doctor. Even within the educational community it is understood that term Doctor refers to the education of the individual not that they are a medical doctor. I agree with you that as long as an individual is not misrepresenting their occupation or level of practice that the title doctor should be up to the individual who has the Doctorate degree.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by Kevin Kim.
    Susan Engle

    Are you following the discussion to ban nurses from using the title “Doctor, Dr.”? California’s bill was amended on 4/17/2023 that restricts the title “Doctor.” Here is the amended bill https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240AB765&showamends=false


    Hello April,

    There is a collective feeling that certain healthcare professionals, particularly medical doctors, disdain the thought of “nurses” using the title doctor. I have an experience I would like to share. I was in nursing school working as a CNA and one of the patients started to get confused and declined a little bit. I believe a rapid response was called and I noticed one of the providers was particularly involved in the patient’s care. I saw that she was not a nurse but wearing scrubs so I said “Thank you, doctor.” She then told me that she’s not a doctor, but a nurse practitioner. This NP was foremost in the patient’s care but had to take the time to clarify that she was not a doctor. Why must NPs go out of their way to differentiate their title when they are doing the same work that medical doctors do? DNP is a terminal degree and deserves the same right to the title “doctor” as any terminal degree. We are not demanding to be on an equal plane as a medical doctor but are asking for the same respect other professionals get when they reach their terminal degree. DNP, Ph.D. nurses all deserve the title doctor.


    Hello April,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the controversy of the “doctor” title for DNPs. While the “doctor” title is commonly associated with that of a physician, a doctor refers to anyone with a doctoral degree in any field and is not limited to a single profession. Besides medicine, other healthcare professions have adopted the doctoral degree as the entry to practice or terminal degree. Such professions include pharmacy, physical therapy, audiology, and more. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree was created in response to the demands of today’s healthcare system and provides educational advancement opportunities for nurses. Advanced nursing education improves patient and healthcare outcomes as well as quality of care.
    The American Medical Association published Resolution 211 in 2006 to oppose nurse doctoral degrees, stating that the quality of care provided by DNPs is not equivalent to that of a physician. They argued that APRNs using the title doctor would cause confusion and jeopardize patient safety. It is important to note that APRNs do not wish to be confused with physicians; they simply want to be respectfully addressed by their appropriate title. APRNs practice patient care according to the nursing model, not the medical model. If an APRN were to introduce themselves as “Dr. Smith,” they should subsequently identify the nature of their degree. For example, “Hi, I’m Dr. Smith, a nurse practitioner.” The same clarification goes for other individuals with a doctoral degree. APRNs can also use this introduction period as an opportunity to educate patients and the healthcare team about their role as a DNP. It is the public’s right to know who is caring for them. DNPs are a valuable asset to the healthcare team, and their educational achievements should be celebrated, not diminished in any way.


    Hi April, the sentiment expressed in this forum regarding Nurse Practitioners (NPs) with Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees is both valid and important. The healthcare field has evolved, and the DNP represents a substantial level of education and expertise. It’s crucial to recognize that NPs with DNPs have put in years of rigorous academic and clinical training, on par with other doctoral degrees like PhDs, DSWs, and PsyDs. In a diverse clinical setting, such as an integrated care outpatient clinic, where numerous healthcare professionals collaborate, it’s essential to maintain consistency and respect when addressing colleagues. As you mentioned, this should extend to the title “Dr.” for NPs with DNPs, just as it does for their peers with other terminal degrees. Referring to NPs with DNPs as “Doctor” in a clinical setting isn’t about confusing them with medical doctors (MDs), but rather recognizing the wealth of knowledge, clinical skills, and commitment they bring to patient care. In doing so, patients and colleagues can better understand the expertise and authority NPs with DNPs offer, facilitating effective teamwork and patient trust. It’s also important to emphasize that recognizing NPs with DNPs as “Doctor” aligns with the evolving healthcare landscape, where collaborative care and a team-based approach are increasingly valued. This respect not only contributes to professional cohesion but also reinforces the idea that healthcare is a multidisciplinary effort, where each member’s expertise and contribution are equally significant. In summary, acknowledging NPs with DNPs as “Doctor” within a clinical setting is a matter of respect for their earned doctoral degree and their critical role in modern healthcare. This practice enhances the credibility and collaboration within the healthcare team, ultimately benefiting patient care and outcomes. It’s understandable that this may take some time to get used to, but the transition has to start somewhere.


    Hello April,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the controversy of the “doctor” title for DNPs. As a new graduate nurse and a current DNP student, I agree with you that, like many other professionals who have earned Doctorate degrees, DNPs should also be able to utilize this title. Physicians do not own the title “doctor.” Some other professions have doctorate degrees, too. It is unfair that DNPs cannot use the “doctor” title. The DNP program improves healthcare outcomes and quality of care. Someday soon, the entire healthcare team will be doctors. This team of doctors may include pharmacists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, and physicians who all strive toward the same goal, each with valuable knowledge and expertise that should be acknowledged equally.

    There is something we can do to change this situation. First, educate patients about the DNP degree: explain that you are a Doctor of Nursing Practice. Display your degree and title on your name tag. Second, inform nurses about the DNP degree: DNP graduates can be role models for other nurses. Third, educate other healthcare professionals about the DNP degree: Some physicians question the DNP degree because they are satisfied with the traditional relationships between nurses and physicians. Try to collaborate consistently with other healthcare professionals and highlight the benefits of interdisciplinary and interprofessional patient care. Lastly, DNPs can shape policy and make our voices known: As DNP graduates, we have the knowledge and skills to implement change and influence policy in various healthcare settings and organizations. We must collaboratively raise our voices and demonstrate the positive patient outcomes we have created. As DNP graduates, we must be involved in professional nursing organizations (CANP, NAPNAP, etc.). This includes membership and participation at the national, state, local, and specialty nursing organizations because this will give us a voice in addressing issues vital to health care and the nursing profession.

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.