A recent NYT article addresses the subject of doctoral-degree holders from other fields introducing themselves as “Doctor” to their patients. The word “Doctor” in the health-care setting carries a rich set of meanings and assumptions beyond the achievement of a doctoral-degree, and is essentially a synonym for “physician”.
If you’re not a physician, don’t introduce yourself to patients as “Doctor.”
I don’t call myself a “Doctor”, my parents (who hold non-medical doctoral degrees) don’t, and my classmates who have biomedical (but not MD) doctoral degrees also don’t. I constantly correct other folks who call me a doctor, and I explain what being a medical student means an average of four times per day (I kept count during one slow week).
Why do nurses need doctoral degrees? I don’t know – but as the article states, I doubt it has anything to do with things like providing higher quality, cheaper or a higher volume of patient services (a.k.a what our health care system needs). If anything, this prolongation of training will increase tuition costs (do the schools that turn a tidy profit on DNP programs care?), decrease availability of providers (as they spend more time in school), and generally erect new barriers to healthcare. I have yet to hear a coherent defense of the creation of this new degree (no, the “increased complexity” of health care doesn’t even begin to cut it). Dear reader(s), if you can articulate positive benefits of this DNP thing, please do so!
Maybe we should move to the German system, where each doctoral degree is used separately in the title. In Germany, MD’s are “Doktor”, MD/PhD’s are “Doktor Doktor”, and MD/PhD professors are “Professor Doktor Doktor” … although apparently their system has its own problems with plagiarism in doctoral theses.
At our institution, we have many DNP’s. They are great and they provide great clinical care to their patients. Many of our CNMs who operate autonomously, but conscientiously, under the umbrella of our OBGYN department are also DNP’s. For me, the most relevant part of this is the “NP” part, meaning that they have advanced clinical training and can better manage their patients autonomously, rather than the “D” part, which just means that they took a year of classes and wrote a thesis. Not sure how that thesis will help deliver a baby or manage a shoulder – maybe all those pages will help save us money on chucks and wipes?