Next time you go to a clinic, your “doctor” could actually be a nurse. Why? Because these days, more nurses are going back to school to earn a doctorate degree – that’s “doctor of nursing practice”.  And a lot of them are calling themselves “doctor” – a title once reserved only for physicians.

Nurses point out that getting a doctorate helps them stay up-to-date on changes in medicine. It can also help them land a top administrative job at a hospital or university, and get more respect from colleagues and patients.

Nurses also say that they’re perfectly capable of recognizing a vast majority of patient problems.  And that studies show they’re just as good as physicians, in many cases, like diagnosing common symptoms. In fact, one study shows that patients are often more satisfied by care given by nurses.

But the board chairman of the American Academy of Family Physicians says that allowing nurses to call themselves “doctors” will just confuse patients. Especially since a doctorate of nursing doesn’t involve learning more about treating specific illnesses.  It’s about things like statistics, and healthcare economics.

A lot of physicians believe it all boils down to nurses wanting the power to write prescriptions, and to get more money when they treat patients. And MDs firmly believe that only a doctor of medicine should be diagnosing patients, and recommending treatment.

A lot of states agree – and already forbid nurses, pharmacists and physical therapists from using the title “doctor.”

I know we have a lot of doctors and nurses listening. Leave a comment on Facebook.com/JohnTesh.