Looking at the number of people with the honorific prefix “Dr” before their name, its not surprising that the public is getting quite confused on what the title represents..
Apart from the Doctors of Philosophy (Ph.D) and doctorates from some branches of engineering who do not dabble in healthcare , the title “Dr” can lead to lots of confusion among the public. This was borne out from a recent survey by the American Heart Association which among other things concluded that patients are not sure who is – and who is not – a medical doctor.
The survey asked if the following were medical doctors:
Orthopedist/orthopedic surgeon: Yes, of course! Except it wasn’t so obvious for the 16% of respondents who said “no” or were unsure.
Chiropractor: Not a medical doctor, a fact known by 64% of those surveyed.
Dentist: a dentist is not an M.D., but 69% thought otherwise.
Physical therapist: Not an M.D., but 22% said “yes” or were unsure.
Nutritionist: Not an M.D. Also a meaningless title. Same with “food coach,” “nutritional consultant” whose qualifications can range a lot. Look for “registered dietician” to be sure that they have attained the required training.
Ophthalmologist: Yes, an M.D, though 29% said “no” or were unsure.
Optometrist: Not an M.D., though 46% thought otherwise or were unsure.
Primary-care physician: 9% actually said a PCP wasn’t an M.D. or weren’t sure.
Nurse practitioner: Despite the fact that this job title unambiguously includes the word “nurse,” 31% thought it required an M.D. or weren’t sure. The AMA is taking steps to make sure such confusion is minimised among the public.
Regarding the latter, The American Nurses Association says this is part of the AMA’s “ongoing effort to limit the scope of practice of health care providers who are not physicians” and would make it illegal for non-physicians to say anything that would lead people to believe that their education, skills or training are the same as an M.D.
Turf protection, or, public service? You decide..