Should doctors be addressed by their first name?

I was sitting next to a resident in the preceptor room yesterday.  He was calling a patient to discuss lab results, and introduced himself on the phone by his first name and last name … but not with “Doctor.”  (e.g., “Hi, this is John Smith from the Family Health Center.”)

I occasionally see the residents’ patients for urgent visits.  When I ask them who their regular PCP is at the office, I get a first name response about half of the time. (e.g., “Jane” or “Dr. Jane”)

I have seen this same phenomenon in the hospital when I’m on the inpatient service; I’ll reference the family medicine resident caring for a particular patient by title and last name, and the patient will say “who?”  I have since learned to then provide the resident’s first name, to which the patient will invariably sigh with relief and say “oh yes.  He/she has been so nice.”

You have probably guessed by now how I feel about this use of first names.  I may be only in my mid-thirties, but perhaps I belong to an earlier era.  I address my patients (over the age of 18) by their titles and last names unless they have given me permission to do otherwise.  When I meet new patients, I address them by their first and last names and then ask them how they would like for me to address them.  My expectation is that they will address me as I prefer to be professionally addressed: “Dr. Middleton.”

I suspect the blurring of casual and corporate that has occurred in the rest of the business world is happening in medicine.  I am addressed by my first name in the vast majority of transactions I undertake as a customer, almost always by people who don’t know me.  Perhaps the “Doctor” title is yet another casualty of that blurring.  I would, however, argue against allowing the traditional cues of our professional identity to erode.

Unlike most other businesses and professions, we physicians have a sacred contract with our patients.  They allow us into the most private and intimate details of their lives.  In return, we pledge to maintain stringent professional boundaries related to our behavior and give them the best of our intellect and compassion.  Being addressed as “Doctor” is a constant reminder to me – and to everyone I interact with - of the oath I took to fulfill that pledge.

Please hold me accountable, and keep calling me “Doctor.”

Jennifer Middleton is a family physician who blogs at The Singing Pen of Doctor Jen.

 

Submit a guest post and be heard on social media’s leading physician voice.

email

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.

  • solo fp

    Part of the first name game is to bring the doctor down a level. A lot of NPs and PAs go by the first name. I will let a patient call me by my first name if they put doctor in front of it, such as “Dr. James.”
    I have noticed that most insurance companies and prior auth company nondoctors also like to address me by my first name, even though I am the doctor. A lot of restaurants, banks, credit card companies, phone companies, and other service industries address their customers by their first names in the current society. I make sure that my staff calls the patients Ms/Mrs/Mr/Dr/Rev/Col etc and uses proper titles.
    The whole first name is a new generation to bring us down to grade school levels. Most college profs would never go by a first name basis with their students. To call us by the first name cuts into the professional relationship.

  • Viking

    I address my patients by their title and last name. It is out of respect.

    I use my title and last name when speaking with my patients. When I’m in the hospital caring for somebody else’s patient, I use my title and first name. You see, I have a long hard last name and I think it more important that these patients know who is caring for them while I round on them for a short stay than it is to maintain respect.

    • http://nomidazolam.blogspot.com Jackie

      Thank you Viking. I have no problem addressing my physician as Dr. It denotes respect for years of schooling. Likewise professors who have a PhD also are addressed as Dr. What *I* had a problem with is a young Dr., half my age, addressing me as Jackie. In his notes he invariably refered to me a Jacky (sp) I found it insulting and disrespectful. No wonder he was so careless with me. I fired him, and a big part of it was his cavalier attitude toward me, and his dismissal of my years of living in this body. He may have diagnostic tools that *I* don’t, hence a Dr. visit, but *I* know when something is wrong… (horrible outcome of ORIF distal radius to include screws sticking out of the bone almost half an inch in many places. I could feel them! Loss of mobility due to screw placement, burst tendons, numbness etc from his surgery) And I don’t wish to be addressed by my first name unless he wishes to be addressed likewise. We had a *professional* relationship and I found it patronizing to be addressed by my first name. Good thing he didn’t pat me on the head as well.

  • http://abetternhs.wordpress.com Jonathon Tomlinson

    There is a lot going on when doctors and patients address eachother. What we call eachother means very different things to different people in different contexts. I ask my patients what they prefer to be called, but I am very rarely asked myself and am variously addressed as JT, John, Jonathon, Dr Jonathon, Dr Tomlinson, Tomlinson, Doc and a fair few others due in part to many of my patients not speaking english. Sometimes the name changes to reflect a change in our relationship, ‘John’ may indicate familiarity or agression depending on the circumstances. Sometimes familiarity results in a change from the informal to the formal, for example after a serious illness in which I have demonstrated a level of care and professionalism they had not seen before. One of my young patients who was an alcoholic used to turn up intoxicated but always called me Dr Tomlinson and he would berate other patients and even the receptionists for calling me any less formal variants.
    When I was younger I used to prefer either Dr Tomlinson, Doctor, Doc or Jonathon. Now though, I’m more sensitive to the context than the name.

    • Robin

      Thank you for your reply. I concur. As an ND, PhD., I am much more sensitive to the context than the name. When I first received my doctorate, it was a source of “pride” with some “ego” thrown in, to want to be addressed as “Dr.” I wanted that “recognition” to be unquestioned. I felt I had earned it and all of the entitlements which came with it. Pretty arrogant, huh? As years progressed, I realized that the title meant so much less to me when compared to the level of respect I had earned with my patients. That earned respect is always evident regardless of whether they use my “title” or not. And, earning it is what really counts, isn’t it? Doing my job to my utmost highest good and being of service that yields the best possible results I can provide, is reward in and of itself, with or without needing to be called by a certain title. The people who need to know who I am, DO know!

  • Jen

    I don’t really understand how this comes up. I guess the only doctor I’ve regulalry seen over the years is my OB/GYN, and the scenario always goes:

    1. She knocks, enters the room and says, “hello” and shakes my hand;
    2. I say, “hello” while shaking her hand.

    No one uses anyone’s name. When I call to make an appointment or anything, I say “Dr. ____,” but even in our regular and frequent visits, I almost never call her anything. I always assumed she did actually know my name, she just has never used it as I haven’t used it either. I do, however, always think of her as “Dr.____” in my head and never her first name.

  • http://AdvoConnection.com Trisha Torrey

    Dr. Middleton – May I call you Jennifer?

    At a time when we are working so hard to create partnerships between patients and their providers, to encourage patients to interface with their physicians as equals, to strive to have patients take more responsibility for shared decision making, your insistence that you be addressed as “doctor” is very old school thinking.

    You, yourself, state, “They allow us into the most private and intimate details of their lives.” So I ask you – do you address your spouse or partner as Mr or Ms? Because that’s the other person in your life with whom you are that intimate.

    I respect that you ask your patient what he or she prefers, and I suggest that their preference be what you reflect for that patient. To Mrs. Smith, you can be Dr. Middleton. But to me, a woman who is possibly older than your mother, I would choose to call you by your first name, because that helps me buy-in to the partnership far more comfortably. Just call me Trisha.

    Gone are the days when patients should be worshiping at the alter of “Dr.” Anyone. You pull your pants on the same way I pull on mine. We are equals in our patient-doctor relationship, and therefore should be addressed by each other as equals.

    Trisha Torrey
    Every Patient’s Advocate
    http://patients.about.com/

    • Dr. Mario

      Ms. Torrey, I must respectfully disagree. You characterize Dr. Middleton’s thinking as “old school,” as if that were a slight. It is indeed “old school,” and in this case the old school is the vastly superior one.

      In your post you related the intimate relationship a doctor has with a patient to that which the doctor has with his spouse, and you asked Dr. Middleton if she would address her partner as Mr. or Ms. This logic is fallacious; the relationship between a doctor and patient is nothing like that between two romantic partners. The doctor-patient relationship is intimate, but unidirectionally — a doctor rarely if ever is so open and intimate with details of their own lives, and for good reason. The doctor-patient relationship is a *professional* one, not a personal one. Thereby it is governed by different rules.

      In any professional relationship, one addresses another formally until invited otherwise. A patient may choose to invite me to call him “John,” but until he does so, I call him “Mr. Smith,” as he is my patient and I want to show him respect. It is an invitation, and only works one way — though he may invite me to address him by first name, I do expect that he address me by title unless I have also invited him to do so, and I typically wouldn’t do that unless our relationship had grown considerably.

      You assert that “we are equals in our patient-doctor relationship,” yet you fail to substantiate it, allowing this statement to rest on its laurels. In fact, we are not equal. One person is the doctor, and the other the patient. This is not meant to imply that one is better or worse — simply not so. Nonetheless, there is a difference, and it should be respected.

      It seems ever more common in modern society for individuals to assume their own importance and deny others respect simply because they believe we are all equals. Equal humans though we may be, we are all individual, and our usage of etiquette in addressing one another shows our respect for our fellow human beings and recognition of their role in our relationship. You may feel justified and even dignified to refer to your physician by her first name, but to many of us, the cavalier and bohemian choice to eschew any formalities is perceived as being plain rude.

      Now, you have invited Dr. Middleton to call you by first name. If that invitation is also extended to me, I will gladly address you as such. Until then, as I do not know you, I will address you as Ms. Torrey (which I personally find more dignified in your role as a patient advocate, but that’s only my opinion), and you may call me Dr. Costa. Best wishes!

      • Diora

        In any professional relationship, one addresses another formally until invited otherwise
        I don’t think you’ve ever worked for a corporation. In any corporation in the US, people are on the first-name basis. In IBM for example, the CEO will sign his email to all employees as “Sam”. He can still fire all of them if he so chooses… In research labs, people address PhD managers by their first name even if the person is a Nobel prize winner by the scientists, engineers, even secretaries who work for them. The corporate America is entirely on a first-name basis, at least tech companies, it’s been this way as long as I remember (and I’ve worked for over 25 years).

        Some 15 years ago when I was visiting a young cousin who lives in Germany, I was looking at her high school English textbook. The textbook had some articles on American culture. One question was “True/false. In America if people address each other by first name, does it mean they are friends”. The answer was “False” and it then went on about the usage of first name in a work place.

        Now don’t misunderstand me, I’ll still address my doctor as Dr unless he or she suggests otherwise. It’s just more natural to me. But… don’t read anymore in people’s using first names to you as a simple habit that they’ll probably developed while working in corporate America.

      • Dr Millie Roberson

        thanks for an excellent comment. I prefer to be called by my title by physicians until i indicate otherwise & only then if I am also calling them by first name in all professional situations between us. I don’t want to be “pals” or “chums” with my physicians, given that they may need to give me unpleasant news & I may need to ask them embarassing questions or provide very private & confidential data. That doesn’t preclude, however, that in social situations we would use such formality. It’s not an issue of superiority but rather one of differing degrees of familiarity. I have no desire to be on first name basis with folks such as waiters, lawyers, etc.

    • Dr. Jerry D. VanVactor

      Mrs. Torrey,

      I, like others, must politely disagree with your position on this discussion. In a generalized business setting, to address a doctor or any other credentialed professional by a first name is not only unprofessional, it is downright disrespectful. For me personally, I earned my title outright by paying for my academic position. A PhD is called a terminal degree for a reason; you cannot go any higher once you achieve one – thereby, I, too, am addressed as doctor. Therein, I politely ask my subordinates to use the title in first contact and allow our relationship to guide us from there. For you to state that my relationship with my spouse is on the same level as the ones with my subordinates is ludicrous at best and I believe your perspective, logic is completely flawed. I do not find anything wrong with a doctor being addressed by his/her title and will not change my position of requiring it from others when I am addressed. I, like others, politely ask that you continue to address me as Dr. VanVactor, be it old school or whatever other slighting terminology we wish to call the practice.

      • Kathleen

        We all respect people who make sacrifices, have a vision and pursue it against great odds, and work hard to achieve a difficult goal that is intended to benefit others more than themselves. However, that is certainly not limited to healthcare, and it is not the “MD” or “PhD” that we respect; it is the personal story. In my case, staying in school a long time was easier than getting a real job. My parents wanted me to study, and paid for my education. I made few sacrifices and faced few odds. I knew that healthcare would provide me with a good and secure income so my motives were not altogether altruistic.
        During my long career, I have met MDs and PhDs that deserve little respect, and patients with no high school diploma that deserve my complete respect. It is not the degree but the person. Doctors who insist on being called “Doctor” confirm my fear: That the healthcare “partnership” is still a long way off.

    • stitch

      One of the aspects of being a physician is that I am privy to some of the very most intimate details of a patient’s life. In many cases, I am told things in the examination room that the patient does not even tell their spouse.

      Using proper titles and last names allows for an appropriate professional distance to be able to be maintained in the face of this level of intimacy. And that intimacy is not a two-way street.

      I grew up always calling people Mr. and Mrs. so-and-so and always using the terms sir and ma’am. It is a sign of respect that is hardwired into me. Similarly, using titles and last names is also hardwired for the reasons I mentioned above.

    • Andrea Robinson

      I have an MD and a PhD. Regardless of this, I do not like to be called Dr. Robinson. I prefer to be called Andrea or Dr. Andrea for those who don’t feel comfortable addressing me as “dr.” Just because I spent many years in school, does not mean that I’m more worthy or special than someone else. I feel that for some patients, they feel more at ease and less threatened when they call me by my first name.
      Just my two cents.

    • Oda

      My mother, no degree, hates it when businesses call her by her first name. She thinks it’s rude and will stop shopping at those places. I also call people by a title, degree or honorific. It’s a baseline of respect. How strange it would be to address Ms./Mrs./Dr. Torrey and be called by my first name in reply. That would be your first and last visit.

  • dave

    What do you call the nurse? What’s his title? How is the patient or physician or receptionist or lab tech to address him?

    • Dr. Mario

      Once upon a time, every nurse was addressed as “Nurse So-and-So,” generally using the last name, regardless of gender. This had (and has) advantages — it preserved a professional working environment and acknowledged the nurse’s vital role in the healthcare team. Sadly, this seems to be the exception and not the rule these days.

      Out of respect, I will always address someone how they wish to be addressed. If I have not yet met the nurse, I begin with “Nurse Smith” or “Mr./Ms. Smith,” and allow the person to correct me as he chooses. Some may find it antiquated, but it is easily adjusted to the person, and it is always better to err on the side of politeness.

    • Nancy

      Nurses should introduce themselves to the patient and say, you may call me Nancy or Ms. XXX. whatever their personal preference is. How you chose to have colleagues (lab/pharmacist/etc) address you should be decided when you introduce yourself to them. I am also a nurse practitioner and make sure that when I introduce myself I tell the patient I am a NP and they may call me Nancy and then clarify that I am not a physician. Invariably they ask the difference and then I have the chance to educate them. They may not call me doctor, I have not earned that title. I strongly believe we need to continue to address physicians, PhD’s etc by their title. They have earned it and it should be respected. And yes, I am old school and taught my kids to call people Mr. and Mrs. when they were young and they still do.

  • http://www.aheadofthewave.blogspot.com Kate

    Very interesting post. In my medical practice I find myself using using my title in about half of my new patient encounters and in the other half, my first/last name when I introduce myself. As I review the record in preparation for the encounter and walk in the room, I size up the situation and make the call….no strict rules; I go by my gut. This approach feels comfortable to me.

    Here’s a related issue; as an MD, how do you feel when visit a physician for a medical issue? The overwhelming majority of doctors will call me by my first name and likewise will introduce themselves by their first name. I once had a doctor who always referred to himself as “Dr. so-and-so” whenever I spoke with him on the phone. It did not sit well. M.D. to M.D. feels best on a first name basis. Comments?

  • Jen

    @Kate —

    Interesting query. My husband is a doctor and here’s what we seem to do: if the relationship we have with the treating doctor arose first as a friendship, we call them by their first name. We knew our kid’s pediatrician long before we even had children, so we’ve never called him Dr. ____. Only first name basis. (Except with the obvious exception that when we call the office we request an appointment with “Dr. ___,” not the first name.) But, if the relationship arose because we are seeking treatment and have no friendship with the doctor outside of the patient-doctor relationship, we’d refer to the doc as Dr. But, as I noted above, I don’t necessarily call my doctor anything during office visits.

  • http://www.robinsonfamilymedicine.com Stacey Robinson, M.D.

    Really good topic and great comments. I am a physician in my early 40′s and I introduce myself by my first and last name. I don’t mind if patients address me by my first name. I usually ask patients, especially if they are older than I am, how they would like to be addressed. All of my patients have preferred to be addressed by their first name. About half of my patients call me by my first name and the remainder call me Dr. Robinson or Doc. I have a small practice and have a close relationship with my patients. I am a strong believer in the patient-physician partnership. I think that expecting or asking patients to address me as doctor undermines that partnership and puts me in a more authoritative role. I really like what Trish says. I think it is important to look at how the patient feels and how the expectation of being addressed as “Dr.-” affects the doctor-patient relationship because isn’t that the most important thing?

  • David Lee Scher,M.D

    Dr. Middleton,
    I left medicjne a few short weeks ago after over 25 years. Partially because of the continued increasing decrease of respect for physicians. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Mid level care providers like physician assts and nurses are now often referee to as Dr. Joe. I feel I must
    correct them. There is too much training and I agree with you, too much of a contractual relationship for first name basis addresses. Again, agreeing with you that it reflects society in general, but I believe society is wrong.

  • Rachel

    In professional relationships, especially within the medical community, it is important to address each other according to titles. It is a level of unspoken respect between two individuals.
    In respect to a doctor-patient relationship, it is much more important for a patient to feel comfortable to divulge intimate details than it is for them to worry about what their doctor prefers to be addressed as. It would seem that the doctor was more worried about their ego if they cared what “title” the patient was most at ease with using.
    I noticed that your blog is titled “The signing pen of Doctor Jen”, which is encouraging others to use the title “Doctor Jen”. I can understand the concept of your argument, but when it comes to what is best for the patient, it would be best for any MD to check their ego at the door!

  • Scott

    Deborah Tannen’s book, That’s Not What I Meant!, chapter six, titled Power and Solidarity, has a few paragraphs about this. Paragraph titled “What’s in a first name?”. Worth reading if you want to understand what’s happening. Excerpt: “…forms of address are among the most common ways of showing status and affection. Solidarity reigns when two people call each other by first name. Power reigns when one calls the other by first name but it’s not reciprocal”. Call me Scott :c)

    • Vox Rusticus

      That is a misleading interpretation of the use of titles. That may be Deborah Tannen’s opinion, but that is all that it is. Forms of address may well be a common means of expressing status and and affection, but it does not follow that calling one another is an expression of solidarity; all it is is a presumption of familiarity, whether appropriate or no, and that has nothing necessarily to do with “power.”

      Tannen appears to fall into the blindered and fallacious thinking that all titles are nothing more than attempts at asserting status and power, and that familiarity is somehow the opposite of that.

  • http://Www.drmartinyoung.com Martin Young

    I introduce myself with a hand shake and my first and last names. No need to add ‘doctor’ in my opinion. I also go on gut feel – my elders are always Title and Surname. My generation I’ll ask how they would like to be addressed, and usually it’s first name terms. Much younger patients usually treat me with respect like any older person and that is more formal.

    Twenty years ago I felt differently. Time has brought the really important things into perspective.

  • Rob S

    I’ve notice an increasing trend for doctors to address each other or identify themselves by first name only. This is a potential problem when trying to communicate critical information. When I call the ER to convey a critical lab result who am I talking to? John the doctor or the nurse? Is it Dr. Smith I asked for or a new doctor that took over the care of the patient? I find I have to frequently ask. I think doctors should be addressed by their title and identify themselves as such so that it is clear to everyone (support staff and patients) that information is being shared with the decision maker.

  • Teresa Krone

    “Unlike most other businesses and professions, we physicians have a sacred contract with our patients.  They allow us into the most private and intimate details of their lives.  In return, we pledge to maintain stringent professional boundaries related to our behavior and give them the best of our intellect and compassion”

    Could easily substitue nurse for physician. Lots of intimate detail in nursing, but nurses are always called by their first names. Why is that?

    I’m an NP and usually call doctors doctor unless I consider them to be personal friends.

    FYI nobody calls me doctor anything and if they do, I correct them.

    Who really cares?

  • Finn

    On the rare occasions when I address my doctors by name, I use Dr. Lastname. I assume if they want to be addressed some other way, they’ll tell me, just as I’ve asked them all to address me by my first name. It is a simple courtesy to address people as they prefer, and to default to the more formal address if you don’t know their preference.

  • Tyler

    I think it is fair to be expected to be called Dr. ___ as long as that relationship is professionally mutual. Now, let me ask this question another way. Do the physicians that insist on being called Dr. _____ address the pharmacists (Pharm.D. holders) they work with as Dr. _____?

    • Primary Care Internist

      Yes, by default unless they say otherwise. but i don’t address them at all in front of patients, so as not to confuse patients that they are treating or collaborating physicians.

  • http://abnormalfacies.wordpress.com Jim

    As I began reading this article, I thought it would be controversial amongst readers of this blog – the number of comments it’s received in the short time it’s been up confirms that. Interestingly, I was having this conversation last night with some other medical students.

    I think in medicine, being called “old school” is a slight, Dr. Mario – it associates one with the paternalistic practices we have supposedly rejected as we embraced humanity in medical practice.

    That said, this is one aspect in which I proudly remain old school (though flexible). I don’t address patients by their first names unless they ask me to, and always refer to my colleagues by their proper titles. It’s simply a sign of respect and professionalism – and if I were the patient, it would give me confidence that my team is one worthy of participating in my care.

    I’m corrected by physicians pretty often in the hospital who insist I call them by their first names, but unless we’re eating lunch together in the cafeteria or traveling in an elevator or stairwell, I will continue to refer to them by the titles they earned. When patients and other staff are within earshot, I just believe it’s the way we should be conducting ourselves.

    I mentioned I was flexible – the patient’s comfort comes first, and if they’re more comfortable using first names, I don’t think they should be corrected or reprimanded.

  • http://briarcroft.wordpress.com Emily Gibson

    I’m “old school” by an standard–trained in the mid to late seventies when women were a very distinct minority in medicine and strict formality was rampant in our profession. The title wasn’t critical to me then and isn’t critical to me now in my clinic practice. Like Stacey Robinson above, I introduce myself to my patients as “Emily Gibson” and after the first electronic note to them, I sign as “Emily”. Some still refer to me as Dr. Gibson, but many of my younger patients are very comfortable calling me Emily and that is fine with me.

    I solve the problem of how to address patients by asking that my office staff to check “what do you prefer to be called?” so we have nicknames, titles and name pronunciation all predetermined before I ever enter the room.

    Emily

  • http://drpullen.com health blog

    I have to say, it does feel strange to have patients that I don’t know outside the office and don’t feel a relationship with outside our professional relationship address me by my first name. It seems to make it seem like a casual relationship, and there really is nothing casual about it. They hire me to provide a service, I try hard to provide the service in a professional and caring way, but it’s not like being buddies. I do like being addressed as doctor.

  • J100800

    You have some good points, Dr Middleton, but everything you say could apply to other health care professionals. Should we start going by Pharmacist Labrecque, Dietician Hubbard, or Speech Language Therapist van Dyke?

    If not, why?

    • MLS

      J100800, I agree with you 100%. I am a registered nurse, and I could never understand the distinction of only one professional group (Dr.). I address everyone, including MDs, by their first name. If the MD wants to go by Dr.______, then I ask that particular MD to call me Mrs. ______. If you want me to call you by your title (Dr.), then you need to address me by my title (Mrs.),

    • http://www.womeninpainawareness.ning.com carol

      It also begs the question – should an attorney, for instance, be called lawyer Smith? He has had 7 years of schooling (as some here have used the amount of time of education as criteria for being called by the title Dr. “I have earned the title”, but so too have many others who are not MD’s (or PH.D’s.)
      Other professions require years beyond the BA or BS. Should we then begin the practice of calling those folks (profession) so and so?
      Primary Care Internist said, regarding pharmacists who are Pharm.D “i don’t address them at all in front of patients, so as not to confuse patients that they are treating or collaborating physicians.”
      If you say to patient “Dr. Smith here is a pharmacist.”, is your patient so clueless that they would not understand the difference? It seems disrespectful to not knowledge them by name if they are there with you and involved in patient case. Disrespectful to your patient as well.
      My big issue with a number of these posts is that many posters appear to like the inequality that occurs through the use of the title; almost an intimidation, so that you can keep the distance in this, what others here have called ‘intimate’ relationship.

      • JKS

        Carol, I agree with you. Either everyone should be addressed by a title or everyone should not. Everyone deserves respect. To call an MD “Dr.” but not a PharmD. “because it will confuse the patient” is ridiculous. It’s like saying one group (MDs) is entitled to the title, yet others who have doctorate level training are not.

  • buzzkillersmith

    I do whatever the patient wants. Most want to call me Dr. Smith, some Dr. Buzzkiller, some just Buzzkiller. It’s all the same to me.

  • Martin Barkey

    Goodmorning all, Doctors, Joe’s and Jane’s,

    This discussion really feels like an all American show. In the “old” world, Europe, it may be different to the US and even in comparisment to other (non)European countries as a lot of cultural aspects differ. In Germany titles make you half-gods, puts you on a throne. In The Netherlands the way of addressing each another in general and specificly in medicine depends on the persons maturity, the situation as it is and the need to build a close, trusted and respected (professional) relation.
    The main issue is giving and showing mutual respect which you do in your verbal and nonverbal communication.
    I respect my parents a lot, and called them by their first name since I was in my early twenties. If and when respect is based on a title only, than I feel sorry for that person. Respect is gained and given on a personal base, as human to human, whatever your title may be.
    Sometimes respect is expressed in using a title, sometimes in avoiding a title.
    Personally I think creating a distance in a doctor-client relation by insisting on the use of a title as a basic rule is not helping anyone.

    With all respect to all Doctors et cetera, please keep in mind you are just human too.

    Sincerely yours,

    Martin Barkey

  • http://www.bridgemen.smugmug.com John Nadrowski

    I am a 60 year old ct tech, if I am introduced to a doctor by their first name, that is how I refer to them except in front of patients. The radiologist I work with are mostly younger & I call them the same way they call me, by first name, except in front of patients. First name greetings I think put both partys on equal ground & good for pts & drs! Just my 2 cents!….John

  • http://www.drklimczak.eu drklimczak

    Respect, respect, respect !!!!
    We should give – show our respect to plumber, baker and butcher , calling them Mr. Smith but a physician, who spends 90 % of his life on working/learning, learning/working just to heal and support these workers deserves some more respect and should be obviously called “Prof. or Dr. Smith “!!!!
    K.Klimczak, MD

    • Christian

      I found the comments so far quite interesting but I am surprised on how many (mostly Doctors) are so fixed on the use of a title. First of all everybody should respect each other in general. However, that has nothing to do with using a title. There maybe a practical need to call somebody Doctor to point out that information is kept theoretically save with that person.
      In general I prefer first names or a full name to identify a person. I don’t mind people using the title, but I strongly object to people who feel that they are something higher than everybody else. I do have a PhD degree as well as an engineering degree. I have worked many years with MDs as well as MD PhDs and in my opinion they are all just humans as anybody else. Whatever degree you have, and you decided you take, does not make you smarter, better or more eligible to respect. It does make you a specialist as much as a plummer is. For the extra responsibility you are also usually very well paid!

      Just one last point to make regarding the title. In Germany the doctor title is given to physicians after doing some kind of short term “masters thesis”. Almost everybody does it, but they do not need that to be a physician and treat patients. So the Doctor title has nothing to do with the professions. Actually I consider the MD as a similar degree as a proper Masters or engineering degree as it lasts 5-6 (except in countries like the UK) years excluding the specialization and training period where you are actually already paid.
      Best wishes

    • http://www.womeninpainawareness.ning.com carol

      Dr.Klmczak, I think your post shows the feelings expressed by a number of people here, that some MD’s hold others with lesser learning as beneath them.
      These workers make sure you don’t get killed by faulty electricity, keep your house from flooding, some called out in the middle of night to restore electricity, restore roads to working order, etc. They, too come when called and, in their own professional way, are as important as doctors.

      • JKS

        Hi Carol, very well stated. I am seeing a lot of MD posts here that make me think that there are at least a few of them that think they are better than others. People of all different professions need to continuously learn, not just MDs. Everyone deserves repect, and these MDs who believe that they are better than others are an unfortunate lot. I would never want to be seen by an MD who thinks that he or she is “better” or more deserving or respect because he or she went to medical school. That is just simple minded.

  • Marie

    In all my years (64) I’ve never had a doctor ask me what I would like to be called. My first name use starts with the waiting room when I am called. The excuse is HIPPA. I’ve yet to have office personnel call me ‘Miss…’ They all use their first names and assume it is fine to call a patient by their first name!
    I work in the operating room and everyone is called by their first name (if it can be remembered!) except the doctor. Where blurring happens is when residents are uncomfortable being called ‘Doctor’ and insist on first name until they become Attendings. Then suddenly they want everyone to call them ‘Doctor.’
    If you check a current ettiquette book, titles are still expected including the patient. I resent the assumption that many physicians make that it is ok to call a patient, especially during the first meeting, by their first name.
    It may be a regional thing, I don’t know.
    Yes, society has changed, and I don’t like the familiarity all people assume is acceptable without asking.
    If physicians want to be addressed as ‘Doctor’ then they should address the patient likewise until the patient directs them otherwise, NOT ask them what they like to be called. I don’t think many physicians would like me to ask them what they liked to be called…….and if he/she says ‘Dr.’ then they should respect my response to ‘Miss.’ Ironically, I tried for 6 months to ask new residents in the OR to call me ‘Miss’ and it was met with laughter. Respect goes both ways!

    • anon

      Agree with this 100%. Doctors have always called me by my first name, even at our first meeting. There’s something awkward about: “So Karen, do you have any children?” at a first appointment.

      If you don’t know whether I have children, you don’t know me, and shouldn’t be calling me by my first name.

  • Sarah evans

    No I don’t think that would be right they have worked hard to get to where they are as and a mark if respect you should address them as doctor

    I work with doctors and feel strongly about this as the world seems to be losing respect for teachers, police and now doctors !!!!!

    • MLS

      Sarah, what are you trying to say? How should a teacher be addressed? It’s usually Mr. or Mrs. ______, (and “Officer ____ “for police officers) so why not the same for MDs by calling them Mr.__ or Mrs. __ or Ms. ____? Are you implying that an MD is more important than a teacher or police office and thus needs to have a title?

      • Vox Rusticus

        MLS:

        A teacher should be addressed as “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, “Dr.” or “Professor.” That is the polite and appropriate form of address for teachers. If they have a doctorate, they should be addressed as “Dr.” unless they are also a professor, which is a high academic rank and the higher title would be the appropriate address (unless in certain European countries where both rank and each learned doctorate is acknowledged in polite address.)

        An M.D. is a doctorate degree in what is regarded as a learned profession; the title and address is appropriate.

        How do you draw from Sarah’s reply that she is implying anything more than that people nowadays have a casual disrespect for teachers, police officers and physicians alike?

    • JKS

      A lot of people have worked hard to get where they are, not just doctors.

  • Marc

    Very interesting read and follow up comments.

    In the UK we are maybe slightly different. I work in Healthcare but regardless of that the standard use for me is Doc.
    It has caused friction whereby some Doc’s take umbrage yet refuse to call me Mr XXXXX, instead using my given name Marc. “You’re a colleague so I’ll call you Marc” (great you’re a colleague I’ll call you Doc) or “I don’t call you Mr X as Mr is what my profession uses for consultants!”
    So no Doc it will remain and as I pointed out to one Doc – you are a public servant whose training was paid for by myself and everyother tax payer so please leave your ego at the door of my office.
    My current personal GP is a very fine Dr, his professionalism and manner have lifted him from basic Doc to Dr

    • Marc

      “You’re a colleague so I’ll call you Marc” , I have just reread my post and realised I did not explain this part correctly…..the Doc’s in question call me Marc because I am a “colleague”, yet do not like it when I call them Emily etc as they are a “colleague”. The default has to be Dr for them regardless of what the “colleague” status.

  • http://www.residencynotes.com txmed

    I’m a resident and I introduce myself by my first and last name and generally if I’m seeing patients face to face tell them they can call me “Colin” or “Dr. Son.” And I address everyone, except children, by Mr. or Mrs. or Miss and their last name and they can correct me if they have a professional title.

  • Vox Rusticus

    “Should doctors be addressed by their first name?” was the OP’s question. “Not unless the doctor asks you to do so” is my answer, and to presume otherwise is discourteous, whether intended or not. Likewise, patients should not be addressed by other than their formal titles–Mrs., Mr., Reverend, etc.–unless they ask you to do otherwise, that is also a demonstration of respect. And one should not presume that because one has asked another to use your given name that the feeling is automatically mutual, and to think otherwise is inconsiderate.

    I do not like it when someone I do not know well uses my first name without my invitation to do so; when they do, they are showing a lack of regard for me, whether they intend that or not. And that is not being “old-school,” unless being old school means being polite and respectful of others and not being old-school means being otherwise.

    In the U.S., we have adopted unfortunate behaviors, an illusion of equality because we presume everyone is “equal” when in reality, that is true in only some but definitely not other ways. Even under the law, doctors and patients are not equals in all respects, otherwise we would all have to buy professional liability insurance. We have a media that amplifies examples of false intimacy between strangers–Oprah comes to mind–and presume that is a standard by which we should treat everyone.

  • LB MD

    Apart from phone calls when any number of people could have a first name and my role in calling them is to tell them results from a lab or study… I have never cared so long as basic respect is granted. As someone mentioned, sometimes respect comes in the form of stating a title and sometimes in the form of dropping it; Doctor can just as quickly be stated in a mocking fashion or to imply arrogance in the “Doctor.” I would rather someone feel comfortable and assume they know my first and last names as they managed to make an appointment. Incidentally, I had two Dr Joneses in my specialty when studying, and whaddayaknow, they were Dr Firstname or just firstname when not addressing them TO others; colleagues know to always state who I am and what my role in their care is; likewise, I know to give the title in introducing every single technician or nurse for the first time; after that, I call people however they wish or in many cases we are a lot like football stars… You’d just get called Middleton, no disrespect intended but no thrones to sit your mighty keester upon, either.

    I have found titles only matter when someone is establishing his or her esteem. Once they feel the respect of their peers and patients or students–which is earned by works, not words–they give up on formalities. Some of us are too busy working to go about huffing that we aren’t constantly being acknowledged got finishing school. Here I thought where we work and what we are granted permission to do with our educations was mighty enough acknowledgment without begging people “respect” us before we’ve done anything but run their bills up a hundred bucks. I will gladly be called doctor when they get out of the operating room alive and thriving on their Jell-O cocktail. Til they feel better, I may as well be called a plumber–we are just another specialty of tinkerer. I tinker with brains, others with guts. End of the day, I am a human and apart from when someone needs to classify–usually outside calls–my role, I figure everyone coming in to our practices can pretty well figure the one with the wall of degrees and the badge ending in MD is the doc. I have a handful of affectionate nicknames I wouldn’t give up for all the prestige you seek in formalities. I only clarify my role if it is in question or there is actual disregard for my unannounced presence (so far that has only happened with strangers who have no reason to know why I am there). Otherwise, I am content enough with Hey, There. There is mighty fine. You often is, too, if I have seen them before.

    • LB MD

      (excuse the error… “got finishing school” was supposed to be “Some of us are too busy working to go about huffing that we aren’t constantly being acknowledged for finishing school.” Auto-correct and I don’t always get along on these tiny touchpads.)

  • http://www.bellscrubs.com James

    My wife has worked in an OB/GYN office for the past 23 years. The younger DR.’s tell her to refer to them by their first name when talking to them. We are close friends with a lot of them and we feel funny calling them by their first names. They have worked very hard to earn the title Doctor and they deserve to be called by that. To many people in today world have lost the respect of their peers.

    • MC

      I agree but what about the on-line Ph.D. recipients, the chiropractors, the naturopaths who all demand to be called Dr.

    • PRK

      So, James, you state that doctors have worked hard to get that title. A lot of other very highly skilled individuals have also worked hard, yet there is no title for them. This is a double standard.

  • solo fp

    If we stop using the term “doctor,” then how do we know if we are talking to a nurse, PA, NP, CMA, CNA, lab tech etc? There are a lot of long white coats in the hospital and a lot badges with small two letter abbreviations behind them. The insurance companies are happy to call all of us providers. The insurance companies have the common goal of reducing doctors’ fees to the same as everyone else.
    In the hospital setting it is important to know who is who. One of my local hospitals now requires color-coded scrubs for housekeeping, RT, RNs, CNAs, etc, as patients often mistakenly think the person coming in the room is a doctor.
    The hierarchy exists as respect. As a physician, I feel part of the healthcare team and am willing can learn from experienced colleagues. That said, I don’t like it when new patients start out calling me by my first name or when nurses call me by my first name. There are lots of docs out there with the same first name, and it can get very confusing. The doctor-patient and doctor-nurse relationship is a business relationship.
    Thankfully most people put doctor in front of my name, which represents the 4 years of college, 4 years of med school, and 3 years of residency to obtain the title. It is the same difficulty with NP and pharmacists who get doctorate degrees. They should be called doctor. Most of the Pharm D doctors and NPs who get a doctor in their field prefer to be called doctor, as a sign of respect at being the top in their area.

    • Joe

      solo fp,
      your post reminds me of a conversation i had not too long ago with a few friends who work in a variety of roles in health care. we were discussing how nowadays the white coat, or the title of “doctor”, or even describing one’s self as a physician, has become ambiguous. as you said, long white coats are ubiquitous. there are now doctor’s of not just medicine, but nursing, physical therapy, etc. physician’s could be chiropractic physicians or even homeopathic physicians.

      • MC

        Not to mention podiatrists and optometrists.I have noticed Psy.D. and Ph.D. psychologists are really, really demanding about being called Dr. even more than M.D.s and D.O.s too by the way.

    • MLS

      I have a very simple solution to your concern: if the individual in the white coat (or scrubs) does not identify him/herself, just ask. You mentioned that you do not like it when nurses call you by your first name. I am curious as to how you address them. You do call them Mr. or Mrs? I would expect that of any physician that wants to be addressed by a title. if you want that respect, you need to give it right back.

  • Miss Maria

    I think today’s media environment definitely plays a huge factor in people’s mentality about this issue. One poster above noted Oprah…who introduced millions of viewers to “Dr. Phil.” And along the same lines we have “Judge Judy” as well. It seems to me that if you prefer to be addressed by a title these says, you must make it known rather than have an expectation that others will automatically observe it.

  • MIS Prof

    I always use titles and last names for doctors and staff unless invited to do otherwise. I just wish the doctor and staff would extend the same courtesy. My family, friends, and colleagues have always used my middle name rather than my first name. For insurance purposes, I must provide my first name to the medical practise, but I always stress that I would very much appreciate being called by my middle name.

    By the second visit, they almost always disregard my request and use my first name only. I check and my chart has been marked with my request. The nurse and doctor are usually apologetic about missing that, but it happens again on the next visit. I continue to use their titles and last name for them out of respect (since they rarely ask me to use their first names).

    After failing to follow my request the fourth time or so, I tell them I’d prefer that they use my title and last name, since they can’t seem to find a way to honor my original request. (I am a full professor and hold an earned PhD.) That usually gets their attention. Then they either use my title and last name or finally (miraculously) start using my middle name (either solution is fine with me).

    Generally, I don’t think the change is because they think I’m snooty. The level of humor in our interactions goes way up (I make the request in a humorous way). I also then get a lot more respect from them. I get more information from the doctor during my visit. We often talk research (I do my homework before the visit). My lab results are often printed for me immediately instead of being mailed later, for example. And I often get computer questions from the staff or doctor during the visit. (My PCP gets a lot of free consulting this way either during the visit or via email.)

    I think the change is because they finally see me as a person instead of a chart or an illness. A real relationship is being built.

    I’ve had a number of doctors make serious mistakes with me, and I’ve had to live with the consequences. (To be fair, I’ve had tricky illnesses.) I have plenty of reason to distrust the medical community in general. But that doesn’t get me anywhere. I still have to deal with doctors in the aftermath. I’ve found the interaction around names *usually* lets me know who to trust and when to walk away from a practice.

    It’s all about respect and seeing each other as real people.

  • paul

    i may change my method when i start to “look the part” a bit more (get frequent comments on my young appearance) but for now i introduce myself to patients as Dr. as it helps bridge the gap until they’ve heard me talk enough to trust that i know what i’m doing.

    when i talk to other health care professionals i introduce myself as “paul (last name), one of the ED attendings at (hospital)” as that tends to be enough for them to know where i’m coming from.

  • JKS

    The bottom line is this: most people interact professionally with others (financial advisors, teachers, doctors, CT technicians, etc.). EVERYONE should be trated with respect. If it is unclear what your relationship is to an individual (for instance, you walk into a patient’s room and are wearing scrubs), you should state that you are the nurse, doctor, etc., and treat that individual with respect.Certain degrees do not just automatically make you more important, more deserving of respect, or anything else.

  • michelle

    For me as a patient, I find using the term doctor as an impediment to being open and putting forth my ideas. When I had a midwife caring for me during my pregnancies, I was able to quite easily ask questions about care. When a test was recommended, I could ask why and what other options there were. When I had a doctor, I felt uncomfortable.

    You can of course say that’s my personal issue, but it’s there. When a doctor invites / permits me to call him or her by her first name, I feel more able to participate in my care.

    I very much esteem and respect the amount of work and sacrifice doctors have put into their careers. And, in no way addressing them by their first name diminishes that respect on my own end. It doesn’t make me more likely to call after hours or abuse the relationship.

    But for me, the title makes it more difficult for me to fully participate in my care.

  • Dean Wesson, RN

    Hi Dr Jen,
    Well this article certainly made me think, sorry for the length. The irony of someone who writes a blog self titled Dr. Jen does not liked being called well… Jen is not lost on me. As I presented above I am a male nurse and a multi-department manager in my hospital. I work with about 400 physicians. I wear a lab coat, not by choice, and everyone calls me Dr. Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I cringe. That said, I call most of the physicians I know by their first names and the physician I don’t by their title. That is right up to the minute I find out which ones suck. Let me elaborate, I manage utilization as one of my duties. So the physicians who… well for lack of a better term sucks, I take great delight in telling them they suck. Hey, someone has got to do it and peer review takes way too long. So I always call them by their first name. Invariably it will start a dialogue about calling them by their title to which I will ask for the policy regarding addressing physicians (there is not one by the way). That stops most of them. The ones who continue to protest largely dive into the respect conversation. I tell them that respect is earned not given (must be the United States Marine in me). I also ask them to address me by my title Manager Dean. After they have went to their chief or my boss without success they usually just slump in defeat. Most improve and some quit which is what I wanted all along. I feel most physicians who say something about their salutation do so from their own insecurities. They just cannot deal with patients or teammates who are on their same level. They feel the need to place themselves at a level above the patient or the other multi-disciplinary team members. Society has given the physician a lot of authority and social status and some actually deserve it, but most do not. So the moral of my story is stop wasting time worrying what you want and worry about what your patient’s need. It seems to me your resident was more concerned about talking to the patient and about developing rapport and inspiring trust. Not about some delusion about the intimacy of their relationship. I have never seen a physician hold their patients hand while they died. I have never seen the physician or any physician for that matter clean up a patient with c-diff. That said the physicians who don’t suck (great outcomes) never seem to think twice about it. That is my differential diagnosis.

    • PRK

      Great post!!! I completely agree. If an MD is hung up on titles, then he/she is not the doctor I want treating me. I would rather be treated by an MD who cares more about mutual respect.

    • http://www.PeerReview.org Richard Willner

      Would love to hear more about your peer review proticol. Why do they suck? Bad hands? disruptive? Bad stats?

      You see a correlation between the need to be addressed by “Dr” and peer review?

  • http://www.rancho.org Mindy Aisen MD

    Patient centered care is an important concept, and all physicians need to put the patient’s needs first, which requires a communication pattern indicating genuine concern and interest. Still, the relationship is professional. I do not ever address patients by their first name and I respond to my first name, but always introduce myself as doctor.

  • http://www.ohiosurgery.blogspot.com buckeye surgeon

    I look young. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not. I introduce myself as Dr Parks when the situation seems to demand an immediate accounting of my credibility (young kid with appy, worried parents, really old people, etc). I’m comfortable with “I’m Jeff parks, one of the general surgeons here” too, depending on the situation. There’s no power play here, regardless of Trisha Torry’s conspiratorial charges. I really don;t care what patients or staff call me, as long as the roles are defined and there’s no awkwardness.

    More troubling is what to call those chaplains in the hospital. Chaplain? Father? Reverend? Sir? Dude?

    • Mrs. Julia Welch

      Call us Chaplain; then if we prefer some other title, we’ll tell you. Thanks!

      • http://www.PeerReview.org Richard Willner

        Chaplain,

        What has always interested me is that at my Temple, we have plenty of doctors and Judges. ALL are called by their first names, even those much senior.

        But one gent is always called, Rabbi, even though at every turn he uses his first name. And I think he is 28.

  • C

    I am so glad that someone finally posted on this clearly controversial topic. I have attempted to do a literature review on this issue in the past, partially because I just wrote a paper for my nurse practitioner program regarding professional boundary crossings/violations and the harm that can result from them, specifically in the doctor-patient relationship.

    While I am not at all a fan of egos or narcissism, I was taught as a young child to respect the positions of others in general, even if the person holding the title was not behaving in a way worthy of that respect. Ideally, one would hope that all people holding positions of authority would behave in ethical and trustworthy ways that live up to their title, though we all know that is not the case. But as a collaborating NP, I would never think to call a physician by his/her first name without that privilege being offered to me first. I also wish to respect my patients by asking how they would like to be addressed in future communications, particularly when they also hold titles of authority.

    Coming from the perspective of myself as the patient, however, I very much prefer to be called by my first name. It is interesting for me to think through the reasons behind this preference. There is no question that the collaborative model of health care that is in force today, rather than the paternalistic model of the past, has served to erode some professional boundaries, as has the use of social media such as Facebook for communicating about and delivering health care instructions to patients. While I think this topic is a “gray area” that is difficult to be black & white about, the most important concern regarding the first-name use is to consider the reasons why one is adopting this pattern and the possible ramifications of it. For the doctor who uses his/her first name with all patients, then that is a broad policy of practice that has been adopted and applies to every patient equally that is under his/her care. But if a physician finds him/herself allowing or even offering a first-name basis with only certain few patients, it would behoove him to ask himself the reason why he is making that decision. While the reported cases are still thankfully rather low, professional misconduct situations all begin somewhere, and erosion of professional distinctions is one step in the slippery slope. Once you go down that slope, the decline becomes steeper. There is far too little training about or awareness of this topic in medical and nursing school curriculums on the whole, and with the health care climate that we live in today, it would be wise for schools to spend more time educating doctors and nurses about therapeutic communication and medical ethics and boundaries given the push for equality in what is still, under the law, a fiduciary relationship.

    As someone above so aptly pointed out, there is a power imbalance and dynamic in the provider-patient relationship no matter how culture has changed, and it is the professional’s sole responsibility to not bring harm to a patient by not managing those boundaries. That is indeed why some malpractice policies cover misconduct as another area of negligence in medical and nursing practice. I absolutely applaud patient advocacy, as too often there are communication issues with providers that should not exist if only providers would remember how to communicate effectively and therapeutically, but that being said, I would caution any advocacy tenets or providers who put themselves at risk of becoming overly familiar with patients beginning with the name issue……….if you find yourself too close at some point, how then will you extricate yourself without dumping the patient and causing much hurt and confusion in the process? It is not a light matter. Anyone who has questions about this can find very well-written works by a PhD and an M.D. on this topic, and then decide for themselves what is the best practice for them to follow given all considerations. Mindfulness in our behavior, that is, understanding and examining at all times why we are doing what we are doing and how the other person will perceive it, would serve us well as providers and patients alike.
    These are just some random thoughts around the ideas of the first-name basis topic. Thanks again for bringing the topic up for discussion!

  • Dr. Dr. Dr. call me Dr.

    Funny topic. Seems like a lot of doctors are quite inflated with their titles.

    How about the president of the U.S. or the prime minister of Canada, do we always refer to them using their titles?

    One could easily argue that being president of the U.S. or prime minister of Canada commands far more respect than simply being a doctor.

    Truth is in most newspapers, we respectfully (and sometimes not) choose to refer to them as Obama or Barak or Harper or Stephen depending on how the journalist feels.

    Yet, I have never heard the president or prime minister complain.

    Cheers

    • Xerxes1729

      Talking about someone is different than talking to someone. If you were introduced to the President, would you really say, “Nice to meet you, Barack”?

  • Miranda

    I am a young looking (so I am told) 30 y/o physician. A good number of patients of all ages call me by my first name, which I have always taken as a sign that they like me and feel comfortable with me. I always introduce myself as “Dr.” mostly to limit confusion on my credentials. Many of my black patients call me “Miss Huffman”, which I recognize as a term of respect in Southern culture.

    The only time I demand to be called doctor is when someone is disrespecting me. As long as you treat me with respect, what you call me is secondary. I call most of my patients by their last name. Although come to think of it, if they are in labor I usually use their first name. Great discussion!

    • Stephanie Thomas

      I think you have the right attitude in taking the informal address as a sign that your patients like you and feel comfortable. I have a relationship with two different doctors who I call by their first names. One is my children’s, and now my grandchildren’s, pediatrician and the other is my veterinarian. I have the utmost respect for both of these men and have grown very fond of them over the years. We have a very comfortable relationship that has included gifts, gossip, etc., although we do not spend time with each other outside of the “professional setting”. Calling them by their first name comes natural and is a way to demonstrate my personal feelings for each of them and is not a sign of disrespect. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. I realize that my situation is not the one being discussed, as I have a long-term relationship with these doctors, but the point being that being addressed by your first name sometimes indicates a level of comfort and genuine fondness on the part of the patient.

  • Lexicon

    I’m a nurse. If I think the physician is good to their patients and is a team player in the healthcare field, I will call them by their first name. If I think they are egotistical and demonstrate poor working relationships with other members of the team, I call them ‘Doctor’.

    • Rosalina DiNobile

      It would be interesting to hear how it sounds when you say “Doctor _______”  :-D

  • http://myheartsisters.org/2010/01/07/what-do-you-call-your-doctor/ Carolyn Thomas

    Fascinating discussion here…

    Dr. Anne Marie Valinoti (who is an M.D. not a PhD – for those who care about such differentiations!) wrote about this very subject in the New York Times a couple years ago. She said: “I remembered the absurdity as a young intern, when I was addressing critical care nurses with decades of experience by their first names, while they deferentially called me ‘Doctor.’ ”

    A few years ago, the Journal of Internal Medicine reported an interesting study of exam room etiquette preferences vs. the actual reality as captured on videotape. Here’s what researchers found:

    - Slightly more than half of patients studied preferred that their first names be used during interactions with physicians
    - Only about 17% preferred that the doctor use the patient’s last name and title
    - Just over 56% of patients wanted doctors to introduce themselves by using first and last names (“I’m Anne Marie Valinoti”); 32.5% wanted doctors to use just their last name (“I’m Dr. Valinoti”); and only about 7% wanted doctors to use just their first name (“I’m Anne Marie”)

    More on this at “What Do You Call Your Doctor? at
    http://myheartsisters.org/2010/01/07/what-do-you-call-your-doctor/

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MOUJC6IADIXVREAMHIUI5WTMV4 Socrates

      Interesting. Maybe I have to change. I always introduce myself by my first name only.

  • http://myheartsisters.org/2010/01/07/what-do-you-call-your-doctor/ Carolyn Thomas

    Ooops, sorry, I meant to write ‘Archives’ of Internal Medicine. (“An Evidence-Based Perspective on Greetings in Medical Encounters”, June 11, 2007, AIM)

  • Kate Connor

    I have both a PhD and an MD. Got the MD second at the U of Miami where they had a “PhD-to-MD” program years ago. They took 25 people with PhD’s in science each year. As PhD’s, we were ALL used to calling the head of departments, professors, etc in our previous lives by first names. In science PhD-land it was considered somewhat pretentious and definitely not cool to “doctor” anyone, even the head of the Ivy department I earned my PhD in. So upon our arrival in medical school, one of the first lectures I remember getting was how this was now medical school and we were NOT to address the head of the department (or any other doctor, for that matter) by first name. It took me awhile, but I still remember it!

  • Max

    Let’s put it this way:

    It’s alot easier for patients to sue ‘Dr Soandso’ than it is to sue their buddy, Jim.

  • Anne

    Where are all these doctors who ask their patients what they want to be called? I’ve never met one, and I see a lot of doctors since I’ve been diagnosed with an auto immune disease. I understand wanting the (appropriate ) formality of the doctor being called doctor, but I am sick to death of doctors who are condescending, who refuse to listen and treat me as an ignorant child. Calling me by my first name seems to reinforce that dynamic.

  • http://www.womeninpainawareness.ning.com carol

    I like the ‘old school’ formality of addressing me as Ms. Levy.” I immediately will say “Carol is fine” but I want that courtesy. I do not like the presumption of intimacy before it is granted. (I can be a fuddy-duddy).
    I also like calling the residents by their first names because to me they are still students, doctors, yes, but student. I am their teacher.
    2 situations: First time seeing each doctor.
    Rheumatologist walks in the room, holds out his hand for me to shake. “I am (Joe Smith)”
    Me: Do you prefer Joe or Dr. Smith?
    He looks taken aback. “Either is fine.” I call him Joe.
    Neurosurgeon. same scenario – walks into room “I am John Doe’
    “Do you prefer John or Dr. Doe?.”
    “I worked for my title so please call me Dr. Doe.”
    Both were fine with me.
    I have other docs with whom I have had longterm relationships. They or I have decided it is time for first name. If my decision I will ask “May I call you ‘Michael’ ? They say yes. (And yet I notice as time has gone on one seems to be acting somewhat annoyed that I use the first name he gave me permission to use.)
    It is a strange game. Intimacy, informality, formality. There is no across the board. I think it might have been easier when there was.
    Carol
    author A PAINED LIFE, a chronic pain journey
    Listening counts, alot.
    As a chronic pain patient (trigeminal neuralgia) I listen and talk to many others with chronic pain disorders: RSD, Fibromyalgia, lupus and so on.
    One of the consistent complaints is doctors ‘shining them on’, acting as they are listening but not hearing a word.
    Chronic pain is like psychiatric to the degree that often there is nothing to do but listen. Unfortunately, pain management specialists, neurologists, etc do not have the time or luxury to do that. It is a sad thing.
    I am glad you are there for your patients and have the capacity to empathize with them.
    Carol
    author A PAINED LIFE, a chronic pain journey
    http://apainedlife.blogspot.com/

    • Dr. Mario

      “I also like calling the residents by their first names because to me they are still students, doctors, yes, but student. I am their teacher.”

      You may like to do so, but if they have not invited you to do so, you are being rude by using their first names. Residents are no more “students” than seasoned attending physicians — we are all students at this art, ever learning to improve our practice. Many residents will invite you to address them by first name, but if they haven’t done so, it’s presumptive and condescending to address them thusly simply because they are training in their specialty.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t even call the students by first name unless they invite me or others to do so. Until such time, they are “Mr. Lastname” or “Ms. Lastname.” It is professional and immediately lets the patient know that this person is not their physician in a way that is in no way embarrassing to the student.

      • gzuckier

        “lets the patient know that this person is not their physician”

        This can be a nontrivial issue in a hospital situation, where the patients (who are presumably not at the top of their game to begin with) are faced with an army of people rushing in and out of their rooms with instructions and requests. It can be useful to differentiate between a physician and your roommate’s husband who is wearing a white coat because he’s a butcher.

        • http://www.womeninpainawareness.ning.com carol

          It reminded me of when I had pretensionjs of going to medical school. I was a volunteer prgram for pre med students. I was given a white coat to wear. Despite my name tag that clearly stated volunteer and college student I had people address me as doctor and contiue to come after me wit questions despite my assertions to them that they needed to speak to a doctor an I was only a student.
          I clothes are your criteria you have not looked athe fact that white coats are worn by other than doctors. Unless in a coma or nono compis mentis (sp). you need o tell your patient you are a doctor. To assume they know white coat means doctor, when it often does not, and that, unless it has changed over the years, the length denotes here you are in your career, med student, resident, attending, forces patients to know something whihc many of them may, in act, not know

  • Tracy Greever-Rice

    This is a very fascinating (and civilized) exchange about a tricky social convention (nothing more, nothing less). I am a woman in my 40s with a hyphenated last name and a non-medical doctorate. I have many opportunities (semester in and semester out) to introduce myself. I choose to ask almost everyone I meet (regardless of age, role, context, or social status) to call me “Tracy”.

    If the folks I’m dealing with insist upon the titular, I will reciprocate — but it must be an “equal” exchange , particularly in any situation where whoever I’m dealing with (in this case a physician) and I might have different perspectives on whom the ultimate decision maker is about my ultimate well-being.

    So, my name is either “Tracy”, which any and all are so very welcome to use as long as they model mutual respect and civility, or it’s “Dr. Greever-Rice”, which should be very easily accessible information to ALL medical personnel because both title and educational status are requested right at the top of every medical history form I’ve ever run across.

    My name, however, is NOT “Mrs. Rice”, “Miss Rice”, “Miss Tracy”, or “Ms. Rice”. While I prefer to be addressed in the familiar, if you are insistent that I recognize your professional status, then I expect you to recognize mine as a symbol of our partnership and degree of mutual respect.

    If you are uncomfortable pronouncing a three syllable surname, then I likely will be too (e.g., “Dr. McGuinness” becomes “Dr. Ess” for those uncomfortable acknowledging the first two syllables of a last name.)

    While I see some comments here that indicate there remain a number of medical docs who have a very intense need to assert their credentials in negotiating the tenor of the relationship with their “patients” (i.e., customers, clients, the people who both pay them and hold the singular greatest expertise for living in their own body), I am pleased to report that not only do all my students call me “Tracy”, but so also do the physicians I consult with to manage my health and well-being.

    (and, Kate Connor, you are correct that Ph.D.s rarely indulge in such officiousness, not between each other and not with their students or non-academic colleagues.)

  • gioacchino aj patuto, MD

    i may be old fashioned ,also. i gave my pts.and my students permission to call me dr. jack……..the people that are much older than me in my neighborhood( some have gone) they saw me grow up—-they still refer to me as jackie. i can live with that. i see them as my mentors in many ways. but, it is all a matter of respect—something which is alien to the younger generation!!!
    however, i enjoy to be called doctor. i earned that with sweat!!!
    when i operate and treat pts. of 3rd world, i feel that it was a well earned title…
    (drs. w/o borders)

  • Mindi

    To me, my doctor is always Dr. Whoever. But, what irritates me as a person who used to work in hospitals and for doctors are the doctors I worked with who expected me to call them “Dr”, yet referred to me as Mindi or Min, and acted liked a stuffed shirt constantly. I would never refer to them by their first names in front of patients, but they didn’t snow me the same courtesy. I got along best with doctors who let me call them by their first names, and they did the same. I think it’s the attitude. I know one doctor who always said, “Don’t bother me with that doc BS, I’m just Tom.” I don’t know about his relationships with his parents, but he has become a good friend of the family and my husband’s hunting buddy. I can’t imagine most of the “doctors” I worked with being in that position.

  • MC

    Along the way, I got an M.S. just for fun and I would enjoy it if people had to call me Master.

  • Denise LaChance

    Unlike most other businesses and professions, we physicians have a sacred contract with our patients. They allow us into the most private and intimate details of their lives. In return, we pledge to maintain stringent professional boundaries related to our behavior and give them the best of our intellect and compassion.

    With all due respect, Doctor, there are quite a few businesses and professions that view themselves as having a sacred contract with those we serve and who learn intimate details about the lives of those we serve. These include nurses, psychologists, other healthcare professionals, clergypersons, attorneys and others. (I have served in more than one of the categories I just described). This does not undermine your argument in favor of being called what you wish to be called. It’s just that you do not have to demean other professionals to make that argument.

  • http://www.PeerReview.org Richard Willner

    When I was first in practice, my patients would call me, ” Dr Richard”. At first, it was odd to my ears, but, it became very acceptable to me. It was just a local but resepectful custom.

  • http://myheartsisters.org Carolyn Thomas

    A friend who is a dentist recently received a note in the mail from one of his patients. The patient had signed his name: John Smith “P.Eng.” You too can sign your name like this if you: 1. hold an engineering degree from an accredited university, 2. have worked as an engineer for 48 months, 3. pass an exam, and 4. pay a ‘Professional Engineers’ membership fee of $300 plus tax.

    Insisting on this designation after your name might be okay when writing to clients/colleagues/employers, but when writing to your dentist (ostensibly about a non-engineering matter) – well, it simply illustrates that one’s occupation, education and status are very important to some folks even outside of the workplace.

    Similarly, what do we think of physicians who insist on making their restaurant/flight/rental car reservations using their ‘Dr.’ titles?

    • Odenator

      Airlines appreciate knowing if one of their passengers is a doctor. It allows the flight attendants to pick them out easily if a medical emergency occurs during a flight. When I book my flights, I always register as a doctor. Twice I’ve been asked to evaluate sick passengers and twice I’ve had to recommend to the pilot to divert the plane to get the sick passenger more immediate care. I don’t do it as an ego trip. My patients call me by my first name.

      • MLS

        Odd…they never ask if anyone is a nurse or paramedic/EMT.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MOUJC6IADIXVREAMHIUI5WTMV4 Socrates

      Maybe to get a professional discount? I would probably use my title if I got 30% off car rentals:)

  • MLS

    Hi Carolyn,
    You asked, “what do we think of physicians who insist on making their restaurant/flight/rental car reservations using their ‘Dr.’ titles?”
    Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is this: this individual is a pompous a$$.

  • http://www.PeerReview.org Richard Willner

    I once saw a coder who was advertised as giving a lecture that had the longest string of letters after her name that I have ever seeen. I guess that every coding board gave her the right to use some letters and she had about 20 after her name.

    Yes, I admit that it took me a long time to not notice the “Dr and Mrs Willner” was omited on an envelope. Now, I really dont care.

    But, there is a big difference calling a NON-HEALER a “Dr”, except within the academic circle.

    And to call one who did not do a Residency a Dr within the Hospital? It is not the doctorate title only. Go do 3 -7 years of a Residency.

    And, this has got to be the longest thead. You think anyone reads it?

    Richard Willner

    • http://www.womeninpainawareness.ning.com carol

      I am understanding you correctly? To call one who did not do a residency….go do 3 – 7 years” Are you saying graduating from medical school with your MD does not entitle you to the title of Dr. absent taking a residency?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MOUJC6IADIXVREAMHIUI5WTMV4 Socrates

        On paper, you’re an MD before undergoing residency training, but who will you treat–or who will allow you to treat them? 

    • LB MD

      Yes, RW/Ricky/Dr. Willner/dude/you o’er there, plenty of us subscribed to this thread as the responses are fascinating. Sure, it may seem lengthy (100 comments, though, isn’t actually all that substantial; try reading the THOUSANDS that get posted on, say, a popular YouTube channel or social blogger ie Perez Hilton… even a popular restaurant on Yelp will have hundreds of reviews when truthfully a couple dozen are more than sufficient unless things drastically change), but since the 30th, the speed of posts arriving, conveniently threaded already, in my inbox for this subscribed-to post has dwindled substantially.

      Like C, I find it fascinating. If nothing else, it’s certainly much less serious than what I face all day and night, and in a way, I find it almost humorous, in a “modern day problems” way, that someone is so … beg pardon to Jennifer Middleton who is in fact NOT my doctor therefore not getting called such by me… well, how to put it? I am slightly amused in a moaning shadenfreude-similar manner by someone’s panties being in a wad over titles. Titles, schmitles. It’s linguistic ego stroking. Any masturbatory actions delivered to my ego should rightfully be delivered by none other than me or my significant other. Asking my patients to stroke my ego when in fact I could just as readily be called their bankruptor or the reason their car was repossessed (granted, over half my patients are on a sliding scale, and over half of those–30% or so of my total patient tally visit-wise at least–are paying NADA, as I care more about them getting care than me getting unnecessary wealth). If anyone needs to be respected, I dare say it’s the PATIENT. THEY are our bosses, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let them be belittled or even discomforted coming in (by ANY doc) by bunched-underroos MDs who aren’t comfortable enough in their own roles and duties to grasp that not calling them some arbitrary title really, TRULY is not for lack of knowing their job. Last I checked, you don’t go and say, “Hey, yeah you, down there fixing the clogged sewer! This Plavix-aspirin biz is making me look like a battered wife with all these bruises. Can it be helped? You seem to know about getting things to stop leaking!” so I reckon they KNOW my job, as do I, unless someone is asking me about–instead of medical concerns or other “wellness” issues like social services I feel we all need to be extremely in tune with (right down to quick access to social services/workers’ information!)–how water isn’t getting hotter than lukewarm or their lilacs aren’t thriving (despite knowing about horticulture, it’s not my job and certainly wouldn’t be fair to make others wait while we rack up a bill chatting about pruning and soil mending). We all have opinions on the matter. They are ultimately my bosses, though. They are my paycheck sources, and without them, I WILL be pruning bushes for a living. While no boss is allowed to harass me and I can “quit” working for anyone who is not respectful or who doesn’t present me tasks I’m suited for, my title is far less important than theirs. My title makes me a SERVANT. Theirs makes them the top dog. I worked very hard to be able to serve them. They work very hard to be able to hire me! I don’t see why I should be called by my servant title unless I’m going to call them boss.

      Who calls the shots? It’s NOT us. I think the OP’s notion of being “old school” is in fact a poor excuse for being insecure. Sure, LOTS of folks went into elite/prestigious fields to compensate for personal inadequacy in times past and present, too, but now with the large amount of schooling (though I remind EVERY cocky resident that half of them in fact DID graduate in the lower half of their classes so leave the ego At. The. Door!), less are able to ultimately engage in title-based ego lovin’ without a strong will to carry through and be solid MDs (psychiatrists aside; no offense to the FEW good ones, but they really ARE few in number, as their 2 years of mental health education is crap next to an APA-accredited PhD holding psychologist; they’re more like General Practitioners with mental health nursing licenses, to be precise about their educations).

      Running late and time to enjoy time off work for a full 36 hours! G’day/g’night to ya.

  • http://www.PeerReview.org Richard Willner

    I just read another thread and I have to respnd.

    I can be called , “Dr Willner”, Dr. Richard, Richard, Rich, Richie, Dick, and “hey you over there”.

    The best term to my ears are the few times someone called me “Ricky”. That meant they knew me from grade school. Or where a detailman. LOL

    Richard B. Willner

  • C

    Yes, Dr. Willner, I’ve been reading every follow-up comment. It’s an interesting study in human behavior.

  • http://www.PeerReview.org Richard Willner

    If you have been reading every comment, C, then why call me “Dr Willner”?

  • C

    Smiling.

    Reading every comment does not mean that I agree with every comment. As I said, it’s an interesting study in human behavior. If I knew you personally and you requested I call you by your first name, then Rich, Richard, or Ricky it would be.

  • http://www.PeerReview.org Richard Willner

    If a doctor is called by his/her first name, I assure you that nobody is ignorant of the fact that the person is a real doctor.

    I have not been keeping up here. So what is the general feeling of the folks posting?

  • http://www.PeerReview.org Richard Willner

    Kevin,

    i would be very interested to hear what the doctor is called at home. LOL

  • http://www.PeerReview.org Richard Willner

    LB

    You are a funny guy.

    With all fairness to the young guys who spent all waking hours getting the degree, be called “doctor”. You deserve it. Enjoy.

    As time passes, one rounds out a personality and realizes what is important to him.

  • Orthopaedic Technologist

    The physicians, the allied health staff, and the patients all deserve to be called whatever they wish to be called.

    However, calling the physician “Dr. Lastname” and the patient “Mr/Ms Lastname”is the most formal and the most initially respectful, and opens the door to “Please call me ‘WhateverIWantToBeCalled’”.

    I’m a health care worker, but not one that has a specific title. My ID badge displays the name that I wish to be called. I’m a male who is not a physician, so I often do get called “doctor”, “nurse”, and any of a number of other titles, so I just say “I’m not a doctor/nurse/whatever-I’ve-just-been-called, and my name is ‘Sparky’”.

    As for the patients… part of my job includes placing patients in clinic areas. I trust that the office staff have asked the patients what they wish to be called at registration (middle names, names that don’t match patient identification, and the like), and I read out the full name if I don’t know which name to use. I will then ask the patient what s/he would like to be called, and mark that on the registration material. Everyone seems to be happy after that.

  • http://www.PeerReview.org Richard Willner

    RE Dr Robertson

    For the record, I wish to be addresses as “Czar”:. LOL

    This is a very interesting thread. Lots of opinions and all of them valid.

    If one is called, “Dr” or not, it is GREAT to be a doctor!!!

  • Finn

    As a patient, I call my doctors “Dr. Lastname” unless they ask me to call them something different. I prefer that they introduce themselves to me as “Dr. Firstname Lastname,” especially in the hospital, so I know which of that horde of people tramping in and out is a doctor. I would happily call any nurse “Nurse Lastname” if they introduced themselves that way, but they either say “I’m Jane, I’ll be your nurse today” or they don’t introduce themselves at all.

    I can’t think of the last time a doctor, nurse, tech, or assistant called me by just my first name without my asking them to. I do, however, object to being called “Mrs. Haddie.” Don’t assume I’m married just because I’m middle-aged–especially when I know it states in my chart that I am not married, and you bloody well ought to have looked at it. We have the perfectly useful and respectful “Ms.” for addressing women whose title preference or marital status is unknown. Those who prefer to be called “Mrs.,” “Miss,” or “Dr.” will make their preference known immediately.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dr.benabio Jeffrey Benabio

    Dr Middleton, :)

    You summarize how many of us feel in your last paragraph. I always call my patients by their last name unless asked otherwise and I always expect patients to call me Dr Benabio. (I ask my staff to call me Jeff).

    It’s more than simple propriety, it’s essential to creating a safe environment for patients where our role is clear and expectations are always met. 

    Thanks for the post.
    Jeff Benabio, MD
    San Diego, CA

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MOUJC6IADIXVREAMHIUI5WTMV4 Socrates

    Much ado about nothing….
    I never introduce myself as Dr. XYZ. For one, my last name is difficult enough for most people in the west to pronounce, and it is often a distraction and source of “where are you from?” discussions when more serious issues are at hand. Secondly, I have my full name emblazoned on my coat, which I always wear when at work. When I go to see a patient for admission in the ER, first I glance at the patient’s name, and I begin by saying: “Are you Ms LastName?” Once I get a response in the affirmative, I then say “I am FirstName; I am one of the doctors here; I’ve been called to come see you for possible admission. Can you tell me about your reason for coming to the hospital today..?” 

  • Anonymous

    As a patient I am often unsure of how to address my doctors so I attempt to skirt around it and not have to use their names.  All of my doctors sign their emails to me with only a first name and use only their first name on the phone with me.  Having a PhD, one of my doctors actually calls me Dr. X, which I find quite awkward.  All of them refer to each other by first names in emails to me which are often CC’d to the others so remembering who I’m talking to and switching their name back and forth from first name to Dr. Y takes a great deal of conscious thought.  It’s not for any lack of respect for them when I end up using their first name occasionally.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tracy-Beard/1262711761 Tracy Beard

    I have a problem and it starts with what a doctor thinks their training entitles them to. I started calling doctors by their first name after knowing and working with them for a long time, I felt that I had earned that respect. When I went to Duke for my critical care training, doctors and nurses were on a first name basis. This was a game changer for me. The power structure was very different. Doctors, nurses, and ancillary providers were treated as equal participants in the patient’s care. The patient was the winner when input from everyone on the team was valued. That environment is hard foster when doctor’s are treated better than. As for accountability, after 15 years of nursing I have seen plenty of doctors who insist on being called “Doctor” who have little or no sense of accountability. Accountability is something you own when become a healthcare provider, it’s like absolute pitch you have it or you don’t. Let’s level the playing field and quit treating doctors like gods, it’s a profession, not a hierarchy. As for MDs who demand to be called DOCTOR, I insist they call me Nurse B…..

    • Rosalina DiNobile

      Some nurses in  my unit address doctors by their first names. As for me, I’ve always adress them as Dr. So and So..and not one has ever said “just call me so and so..” As to leveling the playing field, you’re right when you say that we should not treat them as gods as there are doctors out there who doesn’t deserve to be called as such! But! I still have to take orders from doctors so as long as I’m a nurse :)

  • http://marybaum.com marybaum

    WRONG. When I am twice your age and I – or my insurance – are paying your salary, you are not going to call me Mary while I call you Doctor. I am the customer, and particularly when you are treating my fibromyalgia, a condition you have likely had no time to research, while I have been dealing with it for decades, I probably know better than you what works for me. I grew up with doctors, and doctors-in-training; before I was married I slept with doctors; I have marketed drugs and medical devices. Your profession is no different from mine – and you could learn as much from me as I can from you. Young lady, you are a supplier and a businesswoman like any other – just like me. You work hard, just like me. But you are not any better than I am. Do not ask your customers to grovel, or you’ll have as much trouble finding them as any other professional does in this economy.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OZ6R2B4TYBFS5LFFABMQO4IPBQ Mitchell

      She never said she wanted to call you by your first name.  She specifically stated she asks her patients how they wish to be addressed.

      And yes, the profession of a physician is different than a medical device pusher.  The fact you consider physicians nothing but “suppliers” is rather pathetic…and I have no wonder as to why you may have trouble finding physicians willing to treat you and your condition.
      Pay people even minimal respect, and you might get some in return.

  • Anonymous

    my physician is young, at our first meeting he told me that he was fine with being addressed by his first name,or whatever i was comfortable with. i appreciated the informal way he approached me as to addressing him however i can’t bring myself to call him by his first name in a doctor/patient forum. in the confines of his office i may use the word 
    doc, beyond that it’s doctor and i refer to to him as doctor, i write to him as doctor. it’s just respect for the position he has. perhaps in a social situation i would address him by his first name outside the context of the doctor/patient relationship but i have no desire to call the  person who puts his fingers up my anus bruce or steve.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_H3SO2JRBZPM3NNGE4MOZ7MHCUA greydoggrrl

    More opinions than I expected! As a patient, I prefer to use the title — it makes the professional nature of the contact clear on both sides. It’s a clear and succinct guide to your role. I do not care if you are Dr. Smith or Dr. Jen, tho’ – but Dr.—    Perhaps if I saw you in civilian setting, and you suggested using your first name, that’s OK. But I think that being too casual doesn’t promote trust or respect. It can be confusing.  And – you worked hard for this! I
     It might actually be good if the convention of calling nurses Nurse Whomever, returned, or if some workable new conventions could be established. ( Do we call Nurse Practitioners NPs?)  It would make it a lot clearer in hospitals and clinics, where there are a whole lot of aides and fewer and fewer RNs.  ( is the blurring of roles intentional there?) In some ways, doesn’t it also make it easier to use protocols and thus  worrying about how to address people? 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7YNPKTPC5FZ32JBEUV4WRWIKM4 eda

    it is a burden these days this title -doctor- it means medical skills and sureness and how to achive this sureness in a era of rapid developement of information….

  • http://twitter.com/ShaneDorfman Dr. Shane Dorfman

    I am also a Dr in my mid-thirties and my view (and approach) is identical to yours. I address my patients with their title and expect them to use my title, unless we have developed some long-term relationship where familarity is a bit more appropriate. Interestingly, I find most of my older patients invariably tend to call me doctor, whilst this is often not the case with younger patients.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3LJ5XYYYBDOVUD5YCU6H45T6CU Anonymous

    It’s simple really.  People should be addressed by the way they introduce themselves upon first introduction.  I am an RN in a critical care unit and most of the hospital physicians come through our unit at some time or another.  If a physician introduces himself as Tom Jones, I call him by Tom from that time forward (unless he corrects me which has not ever been the case).  If he introduces himself as Dr. Jones then that is how I address him.  This is just a simple rule I was taught as a child.  If the person has not formally introduced himself then I always use Dr.   Is’s quite simple really.  If I preferred to be called Nurse Amy, I would introduce myself that way.  If I use just the name Amy then I can’t expect someone to call me Nurse Amy.  

  • http://twitter.com/chukwumaonyeije chukwumaonyeije

    I have to agree with ourgreendot on this one.  Some settings are more formal than others and in such institutions the idea of calling someone by their first name would be unthinkable for patients and (certainly) for doctors.  Actually, when I trained in OBGYN in the early 90s at Harlem Hospital all of the older nurses (those who were old enough to be *my* mother, or had children my age) were universally referred to as Nurse So And So….  Now that I think of it; there are some nurses that I worked with for 4 years and I actually don’t even *know* their first names!

  • Anonymous

    Even if doctors use their first names with me I still tend to address them as Dr. So-and-so.  In part out of respect for the title they have worked hard for and in part because let’s face it, it’s harder to walk in and disrobe in front of a doctor that you’re on a first name basis with than it is with someone you’re not as familiar/friendly with.  

Most Popular