Journal of Nursing Administration:
Departments: Letter to the Editor
I enjoyed reading Dr Jean Barry's guest editorial, To Use or Not to Use: The Clinical Use of the Title "Doctor" by DNP Graduates, in the March 2009 issue [39(3):99-102]. It does, however, perpetuate a myth about Ohio that has been circulating for several years. In her article, Dr Barry cited the 2007 Pearson report when including Ohio among those states in which the title "doctor" is reserved by law for physicians; she states, "Currently, there are 7 states that have laws prohibiting nonphysicians from using this title."(p101)
I am not an attorney, but I offer the following information. The oft-quoted statute in the Ohio Revised Code 4731.34(A)(1) states, "A person shall be regarded as practicing medicine and surgery, osteopathic medicine and surgery, or podiatric medicine and surgery, within the meaning of this chapter, who does any of the following: Uses the words or letters, 'Dr.,' 'Doctor,' 'M.D.,' 'physician,' 'D.O.,' 'D.P.M.,' or any other title in connection with the person's name in any way that represents the person as engaged in the practice of medicine and surgery, osteopathic medicine and surgery, or podiatric medicine and surgery, in any of its branches." Other nonphysicians in Ohio do indeed use the title "doctor" including veterinarians, dentists, optometrists, psychologists, and professors like Dr Barry. The Ohio Revised Code simply states that nonphysicians cannot use the title "doctor" "in any way that represents the person as engaged in the practice of… medicine…" When I introduce myself to my patients, I use my earned title, and I state clearly that I am their nurse practitioner. I believe that my actions are clearly within the law because I represent myself as practicing advanced nursing, and I do not represent myself as practicing medicine, akin to how veterinarians, dentists, optometrists, psychologists, and professors in Ohio represent themselves. I might add that neither my dentist nor my optometrist goes to the same extent introducing themselves to their patients that I do with mine. Both the 2007 and 2008 Pearson reports inaccurately report a statutory restriction in Ohio against advanced practices nurses with a doctorate being addressed as "doctor." The 2009 report (http://www.webnp.net/), however, reflects the more accurate state of the issue when it states, "Nothing in the Ohio NPA prohibits a nurse from using the term 'Dr.'" The online edition of the 2009 edition expands on this concept.
John D. Chovan, PhD, RN, CNP, CNS, PMHNP-BC, PMHCNS-BC
Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner