It is complicated and debatable whether nurses with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree should use the title “doctor.” By allowing DNPs to be called doctors, it is a recognition of the level of expertise and clinical skills that they possess. In California, if the context makes it clear that you are not a physician, calling yourself a doctor is allowed. Currently, the state of California charged a DNP with fraud as well as fining the DNP $20,000 for using the title doctor and not explaining that she is a DNP. Since this lawsuit was brought about, three DNPs have filed a joint suit against the state to allow for the “truthful and accurate self-description using the title “Dr.” or term “doctor.” The days of having a strictly hierarchical structure, with the doctor at the top acting as the end-all, be-all of information regarding a patient’s health, are long gone. The expansion of doctoral degrees in other healthcare specialties, such as physical therapy, nursing, and pharmacy, reflects the change in healthcare. Other professions are allowed to use the term doctor, then why shouldn’t someone who earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice? To ensure that patients do not confuse DNP for Doctor of Medicine, the DNP can verbally introduce themselves and emphasize their credentials in all communications with patients and staff.
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