Home Forums The Controversy of the DOCTOR Title Restricting the use of the title “Doctor”

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  • #45938
    Susan Engle
    Moderator

    I would love to hear from more of you on the Bill moving through California on restricting the use of the title “Doctor.” Here is the amended Bill as of 4/17/23
    https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240AB765&showamends=false

    #46249
    Sarah
    Participant

    Hi Susan,

    Something that stands out to me in the amended bill is section 2 part (g), “Patients deserve to have increased clarity and transparency in the education and training of their health care providers.” When advanced practice nurses with a DNP degree use the title “Dr.” with their credentials following their name and state they are a nurse practitioner, they are being fully transparent in their education and training. They are doctorate-prepared nurse practitioners. The same goes for other professions, such as dentists, optometrists, and physical therapists with doctorate degrees, they are being transparent. I live in California and every dentist I have had goes by the title doctor, and yet I have not heard of any dentists being charged the misdemeanor that a nurse practitioner in California was charged last year. This amended bill states that unless you went to medical school or osteopathic medical school, you cannot use the title doctor in healthcare or on social media. The aforementioned nurse practitioner who holds a DNP degree alleges that she always listed her credentials following her choice of title, and included the term nurse practitioner after introducing herself as “Dr.” yet was still charged with fraud and was asked to relinquish her license. As a DNP student, I am honestly a bit discouraged from using the title in the future after reading her court case. I do not believe any healthcare professional who holds a doctorate degree and uses the title doctor is trying to appear as a physician to any patients. I think any potential misunderstanding could be cleared up as long as the person states what their doctorate degree is in, such as “Hello, my name is Dr. Lastname, I’m a nurse practitioner with a doctorate degree in nursing.” Considering what happened to the previously mentioned nurse practitioner, I am curious what precedent this will set for other professions. Perhaps there will be closer auditing of other healthcare professionals in California who also choose to use the title doctor.

    #46252
    Sarah
    Participant

    Hi Susan,

    Something that stands out to me in the amended bill is section 2 part (g), “Patients deserve to have increased clarity and transparency in the education and training of their health care providers.” When advanced practice nurses with a DNP degree use the title “Dr.” with their credentials following their name and state they are a nurse practitioner, they are being fully transparent in their education and training. They are doctorate-prepared nurse practitioners. The same goes for other professions, such as dentists, optometrists, and physical therapists with doctorate degrees, they are being transparent. I live in California and every dentist I have had goes by the title doctor, and yet I have not heard of any dentists being charged the misdemeanor that a nurse practitioner in California was charged last year. This amended bill states that unless you went to medical school or osteopathic medical school, you cannot use the title doctor in healthcare or on social media. The aforementioned nurse practitioner who holds a DNP degree alleges that she always listed her credentials following her choice of title, and included the term nurse practitioner after introducing herself as “Dr.” yet was still charged with fraud and was asked to relinquish her license. As a DNP student, I am honestly a bit discouraged from using the title in the future after reading her court case. I do not believe any healthcare professional who holds a doctorate degree and uses the title doctor, but is not a physician, is trying to mislead any patients into thinking they are a medical doctor. I think any potential misunderstanding could be cleared up as long as the person states what their doctorate degree is in, such as “Hello, my name is Dr. Lastname, I’m a nurse practitioner with a doctorate degree in nursing.” Considering what happened to the previously mentioned nurse practitioner, I am curious what precedent this will set for other professions. Perhaps there will be closer auditing of other healthcare professionals in California who also choose to use the title doctor.

    • This reply was modified 10 months, 1 week ago by Sarah.
    #46318
    Marisol
    Participant

    Susan,
    Thank you for sharing this bill that would directly affect our practice. I understand the patients’ predicament when trying to find a healthcare provider due to the multitude of credentials that can be confusing. The different letters attached to a an individual’s name represent varying levels of education, which can lead to uncertainty about the provider’s specific qualifications. Nevertheless, as providers this risk can be easily minimized by openly showcasing our credentials in our workplace. Displaying our qualifications on name badges and during interactions with patients can help establish trust and transparency. My inclination is to believe this bill was intended to penalize individuals who use the listed titles to intentionally mislead patients and abuse their trust. I adamantly support any legislature that prohibits the violation of sacred trust that is bestowed upon us by the community. With that being said, the title “doctor” is given to individuals who have completed a doctoral program in their field of practice, not just in medicine. Patients need to receive proper education about the precise meaning of terminologies and be guided to verify their providers’ credentials. This will ensure that patients have a comprehensive understanding of their healthcare professionals’ qualifications and not solely rely on the titles they hold.

    #47523
    Gulshen
    Participant

    Hi Susan, Thank you for sharing the Bill with us. As someone who is still in the early stages of pursuing my DNP degree, I never imagined that I would need to justify why I should be addressed as “Dr.” after devoting years to the nursing profession and working hard to attain the terminal nursing degree, DNP. Aren’t DNPs and other professionals, besides physicians and surgeons, prioritizing patient safety, protection, disclosure, and transparency?

    While I appreciate the concerns regarding using the doctor title, which could confuse patients in clinical settings, this concern should not overshadow the immense value of the DNP degree to the nursing profession and the healthcare delivery system. DNP is the terminal degree in the nursing discipline, and DNPs are trained to provide most of the care that physicians provide as primary caregivers, hospitalists, and urgent care and emergency care providers to fill the gap for physician shortage.

    I do not believe anyone is trying to replace a physician or surgeon by calling themselves a doctor. Regardless of what we are called, what matters in the end is the quality of service we provide and the outcomes we achieve for our patients. That should be our focus. By focusing on the quality of our service and disseminating the contributions of DNPs in patient care, education, and research, we can build trust and confidence with our patients and ultimately earn a reputation as a reliable and reputable healthcare provider.

    #47648
    Jennifer
    Participant

    Hi Susan!
    I just read over AB-765. How interesting. The bill says that the public would get confused if anybody in healthcare used “doctor” other than medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy. It also makes it sound as though we are purposely misleading the public if we were to go by doctor as a DNP. I’m also shocked that if we did use “Dr.” before our name it would count as a misdemeanor under this bill. I don’t mind going by my first name as a nurse practitioner DNP but I don’t think it should be a law to make us not use this title. Our education is something that we worked hard for and it would be too bad if we didn’t have this option. I also think this is an important bill for pharmacists, physical therapists, and anybody else in the medical field with a doctorate. Looking at the bill now it looks like it has still not been passed. I think if we are honest with our patients and explain what our role is, then I don’t think this would be seen as misleading our patients. Thanks so much for posting about this bill! Good to learn about.

    #48993
    Johana
    Participant

    The issue of doctor title has come up in my DNP course. If this issue had not come to my attention, I would not have known that it was against the law to use the Dr. title. It is mind boggling that it has gotten to this point where there has to be a law restricting the use of the title. It is a very difficult conversation, as I can see both sides of the debate. I can see how it is confusing for the patient to see a white lab coat and the Dr. initials or refer to the Nurse Practitioner as Doctor. It seems as though the Medical Board is going way over board with the title. I do think that all DNP Nurse Practitioners should make the distinction of being a nurse and not a Physician. Doctorate APRN’s have earned the degree title of “Doctor” similar to every other doctorate such as physical therapy, dentist, pharmacist, psychologists or therapists. I believe it depends on the field in which we are working in. I actually have never heard of a PT in the hospital and even outpatient refer to themselves as doctor. I do believe an individual who has earned the title should be able to refer to themselves as doctor. This is just one indicator that advance practice nurses should be involved in legislator and have a voice in the laws that are being passed.

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