Earned Credentials - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1779814

Earned Credentials

A new normal is unfortunately taking over some medical practices.

Perhaps you’ve had this experience: You arrive for an appointment with your physician, yet are seen by a PA (physician assistant) or NP (nurse practitioner) who introduces themself as “Dr.”

Credentials matter. I worked extremely long and hard to become a registered nurse, and I certainly wouldn’t appreciate anyone passing themself off as a nurse if they aren’t licensed. NPs and PAs have no business putting the term “doctor” before their name, unless they have their Ph.D. Even so, it would be misleading to the patient, since the assumption would be that this person is a medical doctor.

No one should use titles that they haven’t earned, in any profession.

Plenty of nurses have attained their doctorates, in everything from research to neurology. We need more of them. NPs and PAs are highly skilled and capable providers. But they aren’t physicians. If you’ve paid your copay to see a specialist, or your primary care physician, you deserve to see your doctor.

Medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, naturopaths, dentists and veterinarians have the right to call themselves ”Dr.” Ancillary staff do not. Because insurance companies will reimburse the office regardless, this is a way for medical practices to increase revenue while often giving the patient the short end of the stick. In fact, everyone usually makes out here — except the patient.

If you like your PA or NP and they provide what you need and desire, great. But all patients deserve a choice in this.

Next time a PA or NP introduces themself as “Dr.,” say something like: “Oh, how interesting. In what subject did you receive your doctorate?” Most importantly, if you expected, paid and waited to see the physician you scheduled and chose to see, insist on seeing your doctor.

Patients’ rights are not negotiable.

Mary Ann Mulvihill-Decker

Sag Harbor