Recent articles such as The New Doctors in the House and Doc deficit? Nurses' role may grow in 28 states highlight the role that nurse practitioners can play in health care reform. No matter what your feelings about health care reform, I think as nurses and nurse practitioners, we need to embrace this opportunity to demonstrate our value to patients.
While our roles may overlap with other health care disciplines, our presence and expertise should not be threatening. Our goals are the same - to keep people feeling well, help them when they are not feeling well, and improve quality of life. Why are we so concerned about stepping on each other’s toes? As described by Anne Woods in a previous post: Healthcare providers: will we ever play nice in the same sandbox?
Part of the threat, I think, is due to the word “doctor.” Nurse practitioners are not medical doctors. That sounds simple enough, but the difficulty lies in the question: how should we refer to ourselves? I don’t have that answer. When discussing this blog post with a colleague, she recounted the following story to me:
“I have a friend with a PhD. who had a nurse managed primary care office and she hired her collaborating physician. When you called the office, the receptionist answered, ‘Hello, Doctor’s office!’
Hmmm - is that an appropriate greeting? When I was in practice, I introduced myself as Lisa. I was comfortable with patients calling me by my first name. I also explained that I was a nurse practitioner. Many questioned what that meant, some insisted on seeing the medical doctor, and others were happy that a nurse practitioner was part of the practice. How do you introduce yourself? What do patients call you? How do you explain your role?
Let’s take this one step further. When a nurse practitioner has a doctorate degree…then what? “Hi, I’m Dr. ________ and I’m your nurse practitioner.” Is this too confusing to patients? What do you think?