nursing, nurse, nursing certification

Do Nursing Doctorates Confuse Medical Lingo?

February 25, 2009 07:30 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
Educational programs granting doctorate degrees to nurses have received criticism by some who contend that only physicians should be called “doctors” in the medical field.

“Doctor Nurse”

More than 200 schools in the United States offer doctoral programs for nurses, according to NPR, and they are causing some turf wars in medicine.

The universities have said they are trying to improve health care and make it more accessible and affordable for patients by boosting the number of nurses with doctorate degrees. In 2006, Medical News Today reported that nurses with advanced degrees were able to provide primary care in areas short on doctors, such as rural and inner city areas.

But some physicians are worried at the possible confusion doctors of nursing could bring to the medical field. They say duplicate titles could confuse or endanger some patients.

Dr. Steven Knope said that the word “doctor” tells a patient that a person has completed “a certain amount of training, hours in medical school that nurses just don’t have,” according to NPR. Meanwhile, Dr. Ted Epperly, president of the American Association of Family Practitioners, stated, “I can just imagine a patient of mine walking into my exam room and saying, ‘Now Dr. Smith, are you a doctor doctor, or are you a doctor nurse?’”

“I am a doctorally prepared nurse,” doctor nurse Ray Scarpa explained to NPR, whereas a doctor “is a doctorally prepared physician.” Scarpa stated, “And I practice it at an advanced level, and I have earned the right to be called doctor.”

Physicians have acknowledged that they are worried by the number of doctor nurses entering the workforce. Medical student Janet Pullockaran told NPR, “With all these new people—physician assistants, nurse practitioners coming into the field—maybe our training won’t lead to a secure position in the future.”

Analysis: Why schools are implementing doctorate programs

The United States has an “alarming shortage of nurses,” according to a Wayne State University article, and one of the fastest ways to address this problem is to train more nurses to become nurse educators.

Wayne State University has one of Michigan’s first Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs.

Medical News Today noted that many schools turn prospective nurses away because of faculty shortage. “The nursing shortage is real, it’s at crisis stage, and answers are needed right now,” Wayne State University College of Nursing Dean Barbara K. Redman said. “We are attacking the problem with multiple approaches, with the goal of turning out talented, exceptional nursing instructors with all deliberate speed.”

According to Wayne State, estimates indicate that for every 10 graduates who complete a five-semester Doctorate of Nursing Practice program, 100 undergraduate nursing students can begin working on their degrees.

The number of health care errors affecting patients has also prompted schools to improve nurse training. Dr. Fay Raines, dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, explained to The Exponent that having more highly skilled nurses would reduce the number of patient errors.

One of the biggest challenges of these doctorate-level nursing programs, Raines stated, is helping “people understand that what this is about is not just a new degree for the sake of having a new degree, but it’s a new degree that provides a higher level of care for patients.”

Reference: Practice Doctorate in Nursing


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines