Health

Published on March 21st, 2013

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How Many Doctors Are There in this House?

When your nurse is a doctor and your doctor is a doctor, who answers in the examination room when you ask your doctor a question?

That issue is at the center of a national truth in advertising campaign initiated by the American Medical Association. With an increasing number of health care providers – including nurses – receiving doctoral certificates, the AMA feels patients will be confused as to who is actually a medical doctor. Patients, they say, are already confused about types of doctors. After all, there are MDs (medical doctors) and DOs (doctors of osteopathy) who are physicians. Then there are psychiatrists, ophthalmologists (yes, doctors of medicine), and dentists (who are doctors of dentistry medicine.) There are physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners (who are not doctors of medicine but have advanced degrees in medicine). And there are doctors of philosophy, doctors of literature, doctors of history, etc. Thus, when you ask whether there is a doctor in the house, many, many people may stand up.

To avoid confusion, the AMA has launched a campaign proposing federal and state legislation that would require health care providers to disclose their levels of training, education, and licensing.

Says the AMA,

Recent studies show that while patients strongly support a physician-led health care team, many are confused about who is – and who is not – a medical doctor. Over half of patients believe a Doctor of Nursing Practice is a medical doctor, or do not know the difference between the two.

Twelve states, according to the AMA, have enacted the legislation.

The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) is mounting its own campaign, however, asserting that the AMA legislation is unnecessary and duplicative of state and federal laws already on the books that require health providers to be clearly identified.

Says the NACNS,

Many healthcare professions grant doctoral degrees and professionals who have earned doctorates should be permitted to use the title “doctor.”

The nurses say there are some common sense ways to identify health care professionals with titles that give a nod to their education and certifications while also distinguishing them from other medical practitioners. They contend that healthcare providers who have earned doctorates should identify themselves as doctors and also identify themselves by licensure title or other earned credentials, such as Dr. Ann Smith, CRNA. Or, Dr. John Jones, CRNA, DNP.

Well, that clears it up. Perhaps what patients really need is a crib sheet explaining all the acronyms.

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