As PA’s we get called pretty much anything but “Physician Assistant”. Nurse, Doctor, Medical Assistant and my LEAST favorite “Physician’s Assistant”. I have several points to make which I feel strongly about regarding this topic, much like Paul from Inside PA training.
#1 Introduction and Correction
The absolute first thing I do when I walk into a room with a patient is introduce myself as a Physician Assistant. Not doing so I believe is a violation to your patients. They deserve to know who is seeing them and treating them. Plus, I’m really proud of being a PA.Secondly, if they refer to me as “doc or doctor” I immediately correct them. I also agree with Paul, that correcting patients more than once gets redundant and IMO you can appear a bit rude continually correcting.
#2 Gender Dependence (unfortunately gender bias does exist my friends)
I definitely get referred to as a nurse more than a doctor. Although I get both the ratio is ill proportioned. I notice when seeing patients they refer to my male colleague PA’s as “doctor” more frequently. I’ve worked with many female residents who were continually called nurse, after they introduce themselves as a resident physician (COME ON PEOPLE!)
Now, to be clear I’m not hating on nursing at all. However, medical schools are becoming to be predominated by women. PA’s and NP’s are predominantly female. Female providers of the medical field are not sparse, yet this continues to occur.
#3 NP’s with Doctoral level degrees
This might be my top pet peeve. Not all, in fact very few NP’s do this. However, I have come across several who introduce themselves as ” Hi, I’m doctor so-and-so the nurse practitioner” OK, I know what some of you are thinking “But they said they’re an NP!!!” Lets think about our general patient population and telling them you’re a doctor and an NP in the same sentence. It’s confusing. Most people aren’t aware NP’s can obtain a doctoral level degree, but this doesn’t make them an MD or DO. I understand you earned that education, by all means but those initials after your name on your white coat–but in my opinion–keep it simple for patients.
#4 “But I want to see the DOCTOR”
This honestly has happened to me only once or twice. It was so insignificant that I can’t even remember the instances. You absolutely have to oblige with patient request. I mean, they say the number one factor in being sued is likability of the provider. Imagine if you gave someone flack and forced them to see you and god-for-bid something went wrong.
#5 “Are you going to finish your education”
I usually take this opportunity to quickly educate patients on the PA profession. A short sentence will do. “Actually as a PA I am already licensed to provide medical care under the supervision of a physician”. Sometimes they ask a few more questions, if they ask why most of the time I tell them well I get to do most of what a doctor does with a 1/4 of the debt (which in my case isn’t necessarily true but it gets the point across) 🙂