Physicians Fight to Keep the Word "Doctor" to Themselves

Many physicians are worried about "doctor" losing its traditional definition as more nurses, pharmacists and physical therapists earn doctorate degrees, and some physicians are taking their resistance to the legislative level, according to a New York Times report.

A bill proposed in the New York Senate would prohibit nurses from calling themselves doctors despite their degree. Laws already in place in Arizona, Delaware and other states forbid nurses, pharmacists and others to use "doctor" in their title unless they "immediately identify their profession," according to the report.

While "collaborative care" has become a mantra of healthcare reform, not all physicians are willing to give up the traditional idea that they direct a patient's care. Some are concerned the increased usage of "doctor" will confuse patients, while the report says a deeper battle is over who gets to treat patients first.

Another facet of the debate is that increased use of "doctor" may muddle understanding of a provider's training. Pharmacists, physical therapists and nurses can earn doctorate degrees with six to eight years of collegiate and graduate education, according to the report, while it takes nearly twice that many years of training for most physicians.

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