Let’s stop degree creep in health care


How long ago was it that we were all content with having the physician have a MD or DO title after their name, the clinic or hospital floor nurse having a RN after her name, the pharmacist having RPh after their name?

Now unless the pharmacist has PharmD after their name they can’t be a pharmacist.  And for the nurse, unless they have RN, BSN or RN, MSN after their name they can’t be the floor nurse or work in a clinic.  And for the physician its becoming commonplace for them to have MPH, PhD, or ScD after their name if they want to do academic research.

Let’s not forget the audiologist who nows has to have a AuD to practice as well as the physical therapist profession who is now upping their degree requirements for graduating students to being a DPT degree.  There’s also the NP profession which is going to require a DNP degree by 2015.

What’s with all of the degree creep in the health sciences all about?  Does everyone really need a doctorate degree after their name to prove their worth?  Or are we showing our insecurity?  Do we believe that by having a higher degree it will then make us qualified to practice in our chosen health career?

Is there really a difference between a RPh degree and a PharmD degree?  Does this really make a better pharmacist who’s out there practicing?  Is there a difference in how a NP practices who has a MSN degree vs. a DNP degree?  How about the physical therapist?  Do you see a difference between a master’s degree credentialed PT vs the DPT credentialed when taking care of the patient’s therapy demands?

What “bug” has bitten all of us?  It seems that all of the health career fields are no longer content with their previous education degree.  Do they now believe they have to acquire a higher degree?  For what?  To prove what?  Or is it possible that the higher degrees are just padding the academic institutions pocket in regards to higher tuitions?  Or are the higher degrees actually training and teaching the students material they need to know?

I’ve talked to many people in health care and in my conversations with them I’ve come away with knowing that they all agree that in their various fields (I have friends who are pharmacists, NPs, RNs, PTs, PAs) and they all agree that the higher degrees being required by their professions is not creating a better enabled clinician upon graduating.  Yes, they have some additional requirements in doing research, or writing a few more papers, but when it comes down to taking care of patients, the additional higher degree didn’t make any difference.

So let’s stop this train, it’s has gotten out of control.  Let’s stop this degree creep.  We are all capable health care providers, no matter our degree, or credentials.  And we definitely don’t need ‘doctorate’ after our name to prove it.

Sharon Bahrych is a physician assistant who blogs at A PA View on Medicine.

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