Resolution 5: Is the Doctor a Physician?

Introduced by: George L. Bradley, DO – Delegate, Gaston County Medical Society

Referred to: Reference Committee No. 1 – Timothy M. Beittel, MD, Chair

WHEREAS, United States and international medical schools award graduates multiple degrees including the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) and Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree; and

WHEREAS, more healthcare professions (e.g. nursing, nurse practitioner, pharmacy, physical therapy, physiatry, naturopathy, physician assistant) are developing programs that grant their graduates doctoral degrees; and

WHEREAS, healthcare professionals who use the title “Doctor” when they are not physicians can confuse and potentially mislead the general public; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the North Carolina Medical Society develop a campaign for public and legislative awareness to clarify the evolving problem of use of the term “doctor” by non-physician health care providers. (action)

Fiscal Note: Estimated additional budget impact: $20,000. Current resources will be allocated based on the priorities of the Society and the NCMS budget.

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  • Chip Hedrick

    For Physician Assistants,the state law is specific on this issue. PA’s cannot represent themselves as Doctors and must have a name badge on at all times that explains who they are. There are PA’s with Phd’s but mostly in research, either way the law is clear. If someone has seen a PA do this, it needs to be reported to the supervising Physician or the Board for action.

  • freeman jackson MD

    I would like research to be done on this. I have seen non-physician providers do this, and it confuses patients and often leads to anger and distrust in the “team”. A strong statement, if not already put forth by the NCMS, should be issued. I am not sure that $20K will effectively combat this issue.

  • We support the intent of this resolution and are very concerned about confusion in roles of non-physician providers. However, due to the financial costs related to this issue, we recommend referral to the Board for further study and possible action. As we move forward, each of our own organizations should make sure we consistently utilize the term “physician” which minimizes confusion with other providers. These comments are on behalf of the delegation representing the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians — Dr. Brian Forrest, Dr. Shannon Dowler and Dr. Tom White.

  • Sandra Brown

    I agree that this is an important issue. Some fields such as nursing which allow for PhD degrees have co-opted the traditional title “Doctor”. Patients also make little effort to identify the educational level of the provider especially in ED / UC settings. I’m not sure how to address the issue, but I think that $20,000 won’t touch it from a public education standpoint. We also have to be careful not to alienate our non-MD/DO colleagues who do provide a tremendous health care resource without any desire to be called “doctor”. This issue needs more study.

  • Jeff Wright, MD

    I very much agree with the spirit of this. I see a lot of patients referring to a non-physician as “doctor”. I see many who have no idea of what the pertinent differences are. The question is how to implement it. I suggest refer for study and report.

  • Joseph Inglefield

    In the hospital it is hard to know who is who, name tags are often flipped over or covered with smiley faces. If we want to be recognized we need to introduce ourselves at each visit to those in the room as the MD who is either a consultant or primarily caring for the patient. This is hard to legislate but maybe SC model is one we could look at. I agree with having the BOD study.

  • Robert Monteiro, MD

    I support referring this to the NCMS Board of Directors for study and report back.This is a problem I have seen in my visits this year to neighboring states. Hospitalized patients have a stream of “providers” come in their room and sometimes it is very unclear who is the medical doctor. This has lead to legislation in SC requiring display of credentials by those directly caring for patients. There is a growing number of nurses and clinical pharmacists with advanced degrees in NC.

  • David Hightshue.

    I always sign as M.D. After my name NOT Dr. Before my name!!

  • Joseph Inglefield

    Patients are smarter than that. To spend 20k seems excessive. How many of these nurse or other doctors, actually PHDs exist in NC? Hardly seem a real threat to our “title”. Dentist have been using the title too? Maybe we should just start calling ourselves doctors “of medicine” etc.?