KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

What Do We Call Nurses With Doctorates? And Other Quality Issues

The Philadelphia Inquirer/Kansas City Star: "Most nurse practitioners still have master's degrees, but nursing schools want the doctor of nursing practice degree to be the entry-level degree for advanced-practice nurses by 2015. Enrollment in those programs nationally jumped from 70 in 2002 to more than 5,000 last year." The titles of nurses and how they interact with academic degrees are causing some confusion among patients and resentment from doctors. "Most newly graduating physical therapists now have doctorates, too. Pharmacists and psychologists already made that move. Audiologists, physician assistants, and occupational therapists can also get doctorates. As nonphysicians with doctorates proliferate, the potential for confusion has grown, and physicians aren't happy about it. A 2008 survey by the American Medical Association found that 38 percent of patients believed that nurses with doctorates were medical doctors." The AMA wants legislation in states that requires medical professionals to wear badges to spell out credentials, as is law in Oklahoma, Arizona, Florida and Illinois. "People with doctorates in other fields said they generally don't want to call themselves doctors around patients, but they reserve the right to do so" (Burling, 8/17).

In the meantime, a study says that when doctors admit mistakes, fewer malpractice suits are filed, HealthDay/Bloomberg Businessweek reports. "In 2001, University of Michigan Health System launched a program encouraging health workers to report medical mistakes. The program included a procedure for telling patients and their families about errors; explaining who made the error, how it occurred and what steps were taken to prevent a similar mistake in the future; making a sincere apology to the patient or their family; and offering fair compensation for harm when at fault. The result was a reduction in the number of lawsuits and other compensation claims, a faster resolution of disputes and lowered legal costs overall" (Goodwin, 8/17).

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