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    APTA Responds to NYT Article on Doctoring Professions

    APTA responded to an October 1 article in The New York Times, “When the Nurse Wants to Be Called ‘Doctor,’” in which physicians claim that using the term "doctor" by physical therapists and other health care professionals could lead to patient confusion. APTA clarified that in order to provide accurate information to consumers, the association provides clear guidelines for physical therapists regarding the use of the title "Doctor." The guidelines state that physical therapists, in all clinical settings, who hold a doctor of physical therapy degree (DPT), shall indicate they are physical therapists when using the title "Doctor" or "Dr," and shall use the titles in accord with jurisdictional law. APTA also explained the rationale behind making the DPT degree the minimum educational requirement for the accreditation of physical therapist professional programs by 2015.


    Comments

    I have no idea what all the fuss is about. When you hold a doctoral degree in any field, yes you are a doctor. APTA must make sure that they do not bow down to the undue pressure of the few egocentrics. The title is not "honorary" and should not be treated as such. Ego bruising is not a crime. Patients are not confused,most know more than the credits given to them. Psychologist who have PhDs, in mental health and not MDs, and can not prescribe medications are NEVER confused with any other health care professions. There are those among us who have had more education than physicians, yet they have not asked to be called Dr times two or three!!!! The health care community is made up of grown ups, and I will expect that those who are confused are possibly the ones that still have some growing up to do.
    Posted by TOYIN ATORO on 10/7/2011 4:09 PM
    Unfortunately when you introduce yourself as Doctor of Physical Therapy, all the patient hears is the word doctor. I have had patients who were confused and complained that a PT seemed to be representing themselves as a Physician by using the term "Doctor of PT". So I can understand the confusion.
    Posted by Beverly Falls on 10/7/2011 4:53 PM
    I fully agree with Toyin Atoro. Professors, podiatrists, psychologists and others are given the title "doctor." As long I do not represent myself as something I am not, and emphasize that I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I feel it is appropriate. Why shouldn't the public be aware of the educational status of physical therapists? We are highly trained specialists, and this should be recognized. Let us continue to educate the public.
    Posted by Miira Allen on 10/7/2011 8:02 PM
    As one who teaches in a DPT program, I never was in favor of the DPT degree, and I haven't changed my mind. Physicians have much, much more clinical training than PT's do. The DPT has diluted the impact of the PhD. Parents of our graduates proudly announce to their friends that their sons and daughters now have PhD's. DPT's can now teach in PT programs when they have less training than someone with an academic master's degree. Pharmacists have PharmD degrees, but they do not use the "Doctor" title. Same with attorneys, who have Juris Doctor degrees. My attorney neighbor told me that attorneys don't use a "doctor" title because they don't want to confuse the public. There is now a movement to have Physician Assistants awarded doctorate level degrees. When will this absurd degree envy stop?
    Posted by Robert Fuchs on 10/7/2011 10:33 PM
    I also agree with Toyin. Its all about an individual's academic distinctions. Just like ANY other professional, a doctoral degree is a doctoral degree. Robert does raise some good points as well, a DPT should NOT be misconstrued with a PhD. This is where explanation needs to occur on the spot. The problem herein lies in the fact that you are getting everyday lay people talking about the various degrees who lack full understanding of such degrees.
    Posted by David Ravnikar on 10/8/2011 9:56 AM
    What is the big deal? Identify yourself as who you are? We try to titer out MD, PhD. and DPT like it some type of holy grail. I have been around long enough to see the evolution of our profession from a bachelors or certificate program exclusively to what it is now. I may be the exception to most as my original degree was a BSPT. It was followed by a MS, then DPT. I also had gone through a three year orthopedic PT residency program. This totals about 12 years of schooling for me. The only difference between a PhD. and a DPT from what I can see is that it is researched base while the DPT is clinical based. The confusion arises with the entry level DPT and the transitional DPT. I had a lot of years of clinical experience before I got the DPT. They did not have MS/MA or DPT programs when I started. I do not want to be marginalized by someone who thinks that because they have a PhD. or MD that their clinical value is greater than mine. I in turn will respect the talent and education that they bring to the table. Fighting over who can be called doctor is plain silliness. The chiropractors have been calling themselves doctors and have been recognized as such for years with a hell of a lot less education and clinical exposure than our MA/MS and DPT students. Keep in mind we continue to evolve more toward the medical model. Internships are much longer. Then you have residencies and fellowships after that. The only difference I see with the DPT (particularly the transitional DPT) is that one is more research based and the other is more clinical based. Each has its value and should not be diminished by infighting or marginalization. I teach along side PhDs and bring 40 years of clinical experience that they don't. I am not a researcher but I do not expect be any less of a "doctor" than they are. I have taught medical residents, interns and students in the military. I experienced a very collegial relationship in dealing with the physicians. They were not threatened by me and should not have been. We are the specialists in our field. We are not MDs. Their training in neuromusculoskeletal evaluation was sparse and they were to a person very anxious learn from us. We need to appreciate each other for what we bring to the table rather than trying to bicker over the relevance of our different degrees.
    Posted by Bill O'Grady on 10/8/2011 11:50 AM
    I agree with Robert Fuchs. There are currently too many PTs with MS or DPT and other alphabet soup after their name who are an embarassment to the profession by demonstration of their lack of skills. Forget the titles and just do what you license and your Assosciation profess you should and can do. If you can't do it, are disgruntled by your income, get another job.
    Posted by Julie OBrien Thompson on 10/8/2011 5:22 PM
    There's a difference between what you CAN call yourself and what you SHOULD call yourself. Someone who's earned a DPT CAN call him/herself "doctor." And when interacting with others who understand that distinction, no harm is done. But Beverly has it exactly right: "when you introduce yourself as Doctor of Physical Therapy, all the patient hears is the word doctor." On the other hand, Toyin has it exactly wrong: "Patients are not confused,most know more than the credits given to them. Psychologist who have PhDs, in mental health and not MDs, and can not prescribe medications are NEVER confused with any other health care professions." They're confused all the time. Try going to a meeting of parents involved with special education issues, one that might involve a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a clinical social worker, or even a pediatric GP. Most parents are clueless as to which one(s) can prescribe medications, which engage in multimodal therapies, which can provide professional input on 504 plans and IEPs. While those in the profession may know what a physician can do, what a DPT can do (and the distinction between a DPT and a PT who's also a PhD), what a nurse with a PhD can do--and while each may be entitled to call him/herself "doctor"--the overriding point is best serving the patient. And that isn't done by fostering confusion.
    Posted by D. Edward on 10/8/2011 5:34 PM
    I am a BSPt with 50 yrs of clinical experience and still counting. The "dinosaur" in me sometimes exposes the curmudgeonly and crusty side of my personality, but on the path of extinction I most certainly am not. The DPT debate does not cause me to lose sleep:however, I am saddened by the obvious move in the profession to separate from physicians. I was trained in the era when the word "teamwork" really had meaning-FOR THE PATIENT! I graduated from the University Of Maryland physical therapy program when our graduates were considered amongst the very best BSPTs in the country. Even during clinical training at large academically-oriented facilities, rehab personnel were regarded with respect. Those of my generation fortunate enough to have practiced in professional environments that fostered the real "team approach" know of where I speak. I have personally practiced in every type of P.T setting possible- acute hospital, ECFs, military hospital during the Vietnam War, POPTS, my own private practice, and now other private P.T. practices as a semi-retired part-timer. I have had the opportunity to work closely with BSPTs, MSPTs, and DPTs. At this time. based upon my experiences - present and past - there is no difference in the clinical skills and outcomes amongst the various degree levels -IF- and ONLY IF - we are talking about dedicated, compassionate, and real professionals in every sense. I admit that in the future the preponderance of the DPT trained therapists may lead to research-based outcomes to change my opinion - if I'm still around. I am somewhat perplexed by the tendency of DPTs to overevaluate patients at the initial visit. There is a concept known as clinical judgment that is beneficial and necessary in any practice environment and such clinical judgment is an important quality in any efficient practice. I have seen DPTs create initial evaluations that could be a monograph on the particular diagnostic problem of the patient. The bottom line plan of care is absolutely no different than mine and the specifics of the goals are also comparable. The DPT's evals are truly magnificently detailed and put together;however, they often take twice as long as what may be considered a perfectly good initial eval and encompass so much paper or computer viewing so as to be impracticable. My point being, I see a tendency amongst some DPTs to consciously or unconsciously justify their long academic training by their all encompassing evaluations so as to demonstrate their knowledge of every arcane test for a specific condition or symptom. To me this is an unnecessary use of a professional's time and usually takes time from actual patient care at the first visit. I respect the wonderful evaluative skills of DPTs I have encountered, but I feel my hands-on skills, although sometimes different than those of the DPT have yields similar positive results for my patients. I'm nearing the final yrs of a profession that has provided me with immense satisfaction on many levels and I realize the 2020 APTA goals are being gradually successfully attained. But, I see, as do others, a coming disruptive direct competition with MDs that will only continue to raise health care costs. Thee are other reasons I was not in favor of the DPT trend but I've said enough for now.
    Posted by Herschel Budlow on 10/8/2011 10:21 PM
    Hi I have gone through all remarks. One thing I noticed that we have no idea that our profession is used by other professionals including physician as cash cow to support their business. They are ruining our profession image and stander .It is our duty to look out of the box. To protect and prosper we should do all possible measures. Profession always grow and prosper when they are independent. Not working under or for higher medical authorities. Profession grows with R&D . When you work under or for higher medical authority R&D become their choice and not yours. You work and they take credit. It is wake up call for our profession. By the way you have any degree they call you doctor Deepak
    Posted by Deepak sardey on 10/10/2011 7:56 AM
    We need to support our profession and those who have doctorates. I hope that we will soon change the regulatory designator to PTD. I look forward to the day with this is a non issue and all physical therapists are doctors. MDs didn't used to be MDs. At one time they were MBs. What is happening in our profession is not new. The last profession to change their regulatory designator was optometry to OD. At one time optometrists did not consider themselves doctors and now most do. Patients now consider optometrists doctors as well. I have heard friends of mine say that they are going to see the eye doctor. Times change and we must not be threatened by it. If we want to improve our profession and improve the quality of care that is given we need to move forward as a profession.
    Posted by Dr Randolph on 10/22/2011 1:41 AM
    Is this actually a debate? How stupid. If I were a doctor I wouldn't care if the physical therapist called him or herself Dr. Smith. :) Why would I?
    Posted by Stephen on 2/1/2012 11:24 AM
    It is verye simple: if in the rest of the world officially Doctors are only people holding a PhD title then why not MD should be only called physician? The influence of Hollywood is affecting the entire world however oficially physician or health profession practitioners are not holding the title Doctors in any country rather than US and Canada. If a physican wants to hold a doctor degree he needs to follow a PhD. It is not only the time fact but: BSc (4 years + MSC (2.5 years) + PhD (4-5 research years) + Postdoc (2-5 years) and sometimes you need a habilitation (4-5 years) = by 15 years to start your career as a scientist.
    Posted by Harvey on 3/23/2012 4:14 PM
    Can PhDs legitimately claim to be doctors? Absolutely! The term “doctor” is derived from the Latin verb docere, which means “to teach.” Historically, it refers to a teacher or, by extension, a scholar. It did not specifically refer to a physician. This title was later co-opted by the medical community though, due to the respect and prestige that it imputes. In one of life’s great ironies, many uninformed laypeople now perceive the medical degree to be more prestigious than the lowly PhD, declaring that people who have earned the latter are “not real doctors.” in the most of the countries physician are not holding the title doctor. FX UK, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, ect Only PhD are officially called Doctors. You can get in troubles in Germany if you called him self Doctor if you are a physician.
    Posted by Charles on 3/23/2012 4:37 PM
    A physical therapist, employed by the Veterans Administration, introduced himself to me as "Doctor" and although he never said "I am a medical doctor," he certainly allowed me to believe that he was. For example, I asked about the drug Meloxicam, triggerpoint injections, etc. and he said "I don't prescribe any drugs here," which implied he COULD precribe drugs, but did not do so in that particular program. He also insisted I begin physical therapy even though I had just suffered a fall in which I badly injured my shoulder and knee without first requesting x-rays or MRIs and the therapy exacerbated these probelms. I thought at the time this man was an orthopedic surgeon and had I known he was only a physical therapist, I would have questioned his decision and saved myself a lot of pain and suffering. I am in the process of filing a complaint against this physical therapist with the state Board of Medicine and one of my complaints is that he misrepresented himself.
    Posted by LeeH on 12/2/2012 12:16 AM
    Real simple here as I've seen the attitude of the DPT now for years. As a senior therapist who specializes in manual and neuro therapy it is astounding how the new DPT believes their paper with zero days of experience equates to decades of actual clinical experience. I've actually seen clinics where their PT's are arrogantly advertised as "Dr" so and so. It is PT school--I've looked at several programs. The exact same curriculum as my BSPT. You do not go to PT school and then go to "Advanced PT school." Also unlike a legitimate doctorate you do not face orals nor do you have an actual thesis that you must defend. Not your end of the year research project--a year or so long thesis--and defense. Your "doctorate" is a sham and a false representation to the public. Nothing more than a vain attempt to bolster your egos led by the APTA as well as the attempt to gain direct access universally like the chiros. That's what you did. You misled the public. The only ones who think your doctorate is legitimate are the DPTs. The rest of the medical profession is shaking their heads in disgust. And they are right.
    Posted by Chip Hurst PT on 3/30/2013 1:03 AM
    DPT programs have gross anatomy and write a Disertation.. I'm a nurse and I even know that... They do way more than the old PT program and deserve to be called by their degree "doctor".
    Posted by Jane Goode on 7/27/2014 8:51 PM
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