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LittleDaisy

Calling other professions Dr?

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A random question, when I was speaking with other allied health professionals with PhD degree, i.e: PhD in medical education, PhD in social work & psychology, do we usually call the allied health professionals Dr?? Or Mr vs Mrs?

As the university professors usually have a PhD degree, and it is usually rare that we call professor Doctor X...

Any advice would be appreciated thanks :)

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In general, I find that it is inappropriate in clinical settings to address someone with a PhD as "doctor". I think this confuses the patient and does not provide proper resolve. To the general public, a "doctor" is a physician/surgeon/dentist. This is particularly important in clinical settings to provide a clear line of understanding with patients. Even in a team-based care model, the doctor is ultimately held accountable, as such proper resolve from the patient's standpoint is important.

Although I agree that other doctorate holders worked very hard as well for their doctor in philosophy (PhD), in pharmacy (PharmD), in social work (DSW). But in keeping with the spirit of the word in its most-understood definition, I would refrain from addressing them as doctors, especially in clinical settings. I think PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) holders are in a bit of a tough spot for me... I think that would be the only exception I'd make. I think psychology/psychiatry is an area that is muddled up in the public's view quite often: many do not have a good understanding of what a psychologist (PsyD) does versus a medical doctor trained in psychiatry (MD). 

At a university or an academic setting, I think this is acceptable, but I normally opt to use Professor instead of Doctor. I recall the Ontario College of Pharmacists made a bulletin posting asking members to refrain from addressing themselves as doctors. I once heard a pharmacist at a local drug store address themselves as "Doctor. xyz" Although, academically correct due to their PharmD, I see it as passing off because a layman would have no true appreciation for this academic nuance.

We used to joke around in law school too... technically JDs are "doctors" too ;) 

On a related note.. some people have dubbed this phenomenon as "doctorization" - lawyers used to earn LLB/BCL, but they scrapped that and started awarding JDs. Same with Canadian pharmacists.. used to be BScPhm or BPharm, now PharmD. 

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I might be able to give a bit of insight from the PhD side. Although I have a "traditional" non-clinical/basic science research PhD so I don't know much about what allied health PhDs prefer. 

When I lived in academia, this wasn't really a question. Everyone who had a PhD was a doctor. In fact, many argued that PhD was the "original" doctor, and that historically it was reserved for people who had achieved the highest possible degree in their field, with a dissertation, and were given licence to teach. Meanwhile the modern MD has dropped the dissertation and is equivalent to a bachelors degree, but someone somewhere in Europe (Scotland?) Kept the title going and eventually it became synonymous with MD.

But despite the historical arguments, when you're in a hospital, people think Dr = MD. Which is why my peers in 1st year MD knew they could really mess with me by calling me Dr when we were practicing clinical skills on real patients. I would always have to pause my exam and spend a few minutes on the "yes I'm a doctor, but I'm not you're medical doctor" conversation. Cheeky bastards. It got worse during clerkship, especially when I was on a Neuro ward or Neuro clinic because STAFF would introduce me to patients as Dr ___, if they knew my PhD was in neuroscience. Some times it was clearly going to take more time to correct then it was going to take to do the exam, so I would just get the exam over with.

All that is to say that as a medical student with a real old-school PhD, I don't like being called Dr in a clinical setting (at least for another 12 months). I don't know what it's like for allied health, whose PhD is more relevant to the setting. I do agree though, there's been a "doctorization" of everything, but the old PhDs would argue that includes calling MDs "doctor", haha.

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9 hours ago, LittleDaisy said:

A random question, when I was speaking with other allied health professionals with PhD degree, i.e: PhD in medical education, PhD in social work & psychology, do we usually call the allied health professionals Dr?? Or Mr vs Mrs?

As the university professors usually have a PhD degree, and it is usually rare that we call professor Doctor X...

Any advice would be appreciated thanks :)

Thought that was because professor as a rank out classes Dr. I mean there are a bunch of extra steps post getting a Dr you have to go through to get a professor position (including tenure in a most cases). For the most part all professors are doctors (at least usually at universities) but not all doctors are professors (?) :)

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The provincial law in Quebec dictates that MD, DMDs/DDS and DVMs are the only professionals who can legally call themselves "Doctor" in a clinical setting without restrictions.

Other professions in health care can call themselves "Doctor" but have to specify their discipline. For instance, an optometrist would be allowed to call himself "Dr John Doe, Optometrist." For this to be allowed, the doctoral degree must be required to be a member of the professional association (ie: pharmacists, optometrists, podiatrists, clinical psychologist, etc.). A nurse with a doctor of nursing degree would have to follow the next nomenclature as her doctoral degree is not a requirement to join her order.

Someone with a PhD in a given field must be called "Mr." but is allowed to add that he has a doctoral degree and can specify the discipline. For instance, someone with a PhD in neuroscience could call himself "Mr John Doe, PhD" or "Mr John Doe, Doctor of neuroscience" but not "Dr."

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7 hours ago, PhD2MD said:

It got worse during clerkship, especially when I was on a Neuro ward or Neuro clinic because STAFF would introduce me to patients as Dr ___, if they knew my PhD was in neuroscience. Some times it was clearly going to take more time to correct then it was going to take to do the exam, so I would just get the exam over with.

Perhaps "student Dr." would have been more clear in the clinical setting.

To answer OP's question, if working with a PhD in medical education, psychology, I would address them as Dr. initially until we are familiar enough to be on a first name basis (which I invite all my allied health colleagues to). Basically, however they would prefer to be addressed. 

If you were working with a patient together, it would make sense to clarify the specific roles as above.

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Regardless of setting, I’d still call them Dr if they have any kind of doctoral degree. Especially so in academic settings where there’s no patient involved (eg being introduced at a conference, email etc). I’m not sure why you wouldn’t call them Dr in this case.

 

I’ve even seen this in clinical settings, classic example is psychiatry. The psychiatrist will often introduce themselves as “ Hi I’m Dr XYZ, a child psychiatrist, and this is Dr ABC, a clinical psychologist.” In med school, colleagues with a PhD were sometimes introduced to patients by their preceptor as “Dr John Doe, who is a medical student and has a PhD in whatever” if the PhD was somewhat relevant to the clinical specialty. I think it’s an earned title, it just needs to be properly clarified what they are a doctor of - just like you want the internist to distinguish themselves from the surgeon (though I’m sure the surgeon will already be on top of that)

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19 hours ago, LittleDaisy said:

A random question, when I was speaking with other allied health professionals with PhD degree, i.e: PhD in medical education, PhD in social work & psychology, do we usually call the allied health professionals Dr?? Or Mr vs Mrs?

As the university professors usually have a PhD degree, and it is usually rare that we call professor Doctor X...

Any advice would be appreciated thanks :)

I don't, but truthfully i don't call anyone Dr. unless they are an attending. 

 

If you are introducing someone to give a speech or something, yes you would call them a Dr. if they have a PhD or MD. Otherwise, I wouldn't unless they wanted to be called Dr. 

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Ahahah thanks guys! I was working with a PhD in social worker, I just noticed that she self-referred herself as Dr . X on her personal professional website, and looked a bit frustrated if I called her Mrs vs Dr. 

I felt a bit uncomfortable to address her by Dr, as I only call my staff attending by Dr  X + A+ Z, some of the younger staff physicians actually prefer me to call them by their first name, which I feel uncomfortable and prefer to keep the professional distance. 

I guess that in medicine, we are just so used to reserve Dr for staff attending lol!

Moral of story: call the PhD+ professors by Dr if they love to hear this title lol!

p.s: I still feel a bit uncomfortable if my patients call me by Dr X, as I feel the title only belongs to staff attending :)

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15 minutes ago, LittleDaisy said:

Ahahah thanks guys! I was working with a PhD in social worker, I just noticed that she self-referred herself as Dr . X on her personal professional website, and looked a bit frustrated if I called her Mrs vs Dr. 

I felt a bit uncomfortable to address her by Dr, as I only call my staff attending by Dr  X + A+ Z, some of the younger staff physicians actually prefer me to call them by their first name, which I feel uncomfortable and prefer to keep the professional distance. 

I guess that in medicine, we are just so used to reserve Dr for staff attending lol!

Moral of story: call the PhD+ professors by Dr if they love to hear this title lol!

p.s: I still feel a bit uncomfortable if my patients call me by Dr X, as I feel the title only belongs to staff attending :)

It's not a matter of whether they like to hear it, it's that Dr. is their proper title. Just like they shouldn't call you Mr./Mrs. if you step into a research lab. 

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10 minutes ago, ZBL said:

It's not a matter of whether they like to hear it, it's that Dr. is their proper title. Just like they shouldn't call you Mr./Mrs. if you step into a research lab. 

some people in this thread (and forum) need to get off their high horse...an MD is not some magical credential that is above all else. Getting a PhD takes more time, is more difficult, and receives a fraction of the rewards afterwards...the ignorance in the bloodied statement irks me a lot...if only people knew the difficulty of becoming a professor in Canada they would show more respect 

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41 minutes ago, LittleDaisy said:

I felt a bit uncomfortable to address her by Dr, as I only call my staff attending by Dr  X + A+ Z, some of the younger staff physicians actually prefer me to call them by their first name, which I feel uncomfortable and prefer to keep the professional distance. 

I guess that in medicine, we are just so used to reserve Dr for staff attending lol!

I'm not familiar with this cultural view... anyone with a PhD is Dr. by title, as ZBL said. Have you had PhD anatomy (or other basic science) professors in the preclerkship portion of medical school? How did you address them? Maybe your university was different, but all our professors went by Dr.

Although you probably don't mean to intentionally convey disrespect by using Mr/Ms, it could come across as suggesting that the title someone has earned through their PhD isn't valid simply because they're not in medicine like you are. Hence the frustration you are sensing. It may be worth clearing the air and apologizing if you can reasonably claim that you just found out she actually holds a PhD.

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Inside the clinical setting, I think it can get really really confusing when you have new faces coming and going all the time.

Like @Edict and @LittleDaisy suggested, I would only call my attending Dr. in the clinical setting.

I appreciate and greatly respect that allied health professionals have their PhD's and hold academic positions, but this doesn't change their scope of practice or make them more special in the clinical setting. In the clinical setting, they still do the job that they are clinically trained to do: I.e. OT, PT, RN, Social Work... etc.

Now if they were giving a lecture at grand rounds or during academic half day or collaborating on a project, I will address them as Dr. X,Y,Z.. etc.

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8 hours ago, FeelingTheBern said:

Inside the clinical setting, I think it can get really really confusing when you have new faces coming and going all the time.

Like @Edict and @LittleDaisy suggested, I would only call my attending Dr. in the clinical setting.

I appreciate and greatly respect that allied health professionals have their PhD's and hold academic positions, but this doesn't change their scope of practice or make them more special in the clinical setting. In the clinical setting, they still do the job that they are clinically trained to do: I.e. OT, PT, RN, Social Work... etc.

Now if they were giving a lecture at grand rounds or during academic half day or collaborating on a project, I will address them as Dr. X,Y,Z.. etc.

Agreed. I've always assumed that in clinical settings, MD/DDS/DVM/OD = "Dr." and outside of clinical settings, PhD joins the list. I would never call my non-MD professor as Mr./Mrs. as I feel that would be disrespectful. But I also think that a clinical setting is a different situation because clarity to the patient is paramount over people's individual egos, and as such it is fair to introduce MD's as "Dr. X" but other PhD health professionals by first name. In some situations I can see it being fine without affecting clarity to the patient as for example, a PhD clinical psychologist as the patient's primary caregiver in that setting, but I think the PhD's in nursing and social work who are taking the role of a nurse or social worker should refrain from using their Dr. title in a clinical context, although they can use the title freely outside of that. Of course you can technically sit there and introduce yourself as "Dr. X" but explain to the patient that you have a PhD in some other discipline but that your role is as a nurse, social worker, medical student, etc. but that seems like a fruitless and potentially confusing endeavour.

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Seems to be some lack of clarity regarding what scenarios "in the clinical setting" refers to in this thread, which has bearing on the discussion.

1) Health care professional working with a patient: Agree that clarity to the patient is important. Medical trainees would not be responsible for introducing others on the health care team to the patient though, so I don't see this becoming an issue for the typical student or resident. Everyone has name tags in the hospital, and would be expected to clarify their role when introducing themselves to patients - similar to a resident who may call themselves Dr. but should mention that they are a resident. It should be noted that just because an allied health PhD prefers to be addressed formally by medical trainees, in my mind it does not mean that they would necessarily introduce themselves as Dr. to patients. If anyone has recent experiences with this, please share - in the hospital, I mainly see nurse practitioners which are master's level allied health, and not PhD.

2) Referring to other health care professionals when they are not present: [first name last name] sans title usually works for nearly everyone in the hospital if you don't wish to be overly hierarchical. I do agree that others might expect to hear students/residents refer to their attendings as Dr. 

3) Addressing others directly (whether it be on the ward in rounds, in the team room, etc.): I believe this was OP's scenario. A medical trainee can decline to address other full members of the health care team by their preferred title, but it's probably not a politically astute move (360 degree evals and all). It's not much different from addressing a patient as Dr. if you knew they had a doctorate. To pass pediatrics OSCE, we had to specifically address the pediatric patient's parents by their proper name ('Mom' or 'Dad' was not acceptable).

When you're not in the presence of the patient, I'm not sure how scope of practice is relevant (and it doesn't do much good for a physician to provide a prescription if the patient can't afford to fill the script or has no place to stay on discharge). If I were the attending physician and noticed that my learners felt uncomfortable calling my PhD colleagues by their proper titles (out of some sense they should not seek to feel 'more special' when in the hospital, not out of a desire to avoid confusion away from the patient's bedside), to be frank I wouldn't think it reflected well on them. As noted above, a doctoral-level PhD is a higher academic degree than MD, which is an undergraduate-level professional degree. Just my opinion.

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I'm gonna play devil's advocate here.  Anyone who's concerned about this is a little too infatuated with the prestige of their job. It's just a title, a level of education, a degree. Not some sacred thing. My staff (and some patients I'm close with) call me by my first name. The public thinks I'm not a 'real doctor.' If I was concerned about any of that, I'd have a very short career!

Honestly if I had any confusion about whether or not to address an academic or a non-clinical professional as "Doctor," but it would technically be appropriate to do, I'd do it. Let them tell you that they'd rather be referred to by something else. Otherwise, you're in the right.

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On 4/27/2018 at 12:37 PM, cleanup said:

I'm gonna play devil's advocate here.  Anyone who's concerned about this is a little too infatuated with the prestige of their job. It's just a title, a level of education, a degree. Not some sacred thing. My staff (and some patients I'm close with) call me by my first name. The public thinks I'm not a 'real doctor.' If I was concerned about any of that, I'd have a very short career!

Honestly if I had any confusion about whether or not to address an academic or a non-clinical professional as "Doctor," but it would technically be appropriate to do, I'd do it. Let them tell you that they'd rather be referred to by something else. Otherwise, you're in the right.

All the staff I work with (docs, nurses, social workers, secretaries etc.) call me by my first name. I correct them if they don't. Hate people using my formal "Dr. X" title when they are just speaking to me. 

I do introduce myself as Dr. X ti patients though. 

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