Welcome to the first inaugural edition of the #DPTStudent chat “Feature Friday”, which will be a weekly recap of the Twitter chat/Google Hangout that the #DPTStudent group hosts every other Wednesday night from 9:00 – 10:00 EST. Be sure to monitor the #DPTstudent hashtag on Twitter and follow the chat administrators, @LauraLWebb, @TylerTracy10 and @Jocelyn_SPT for announcements about topics, including live interviews.
On Wednesday, the #DPTStudent Chat posed the question, “Should Physical Therapists call themselves ‘Doctor’?” We went back to our roots with a text-based, Twitter chat in-stead of a Google Hangout interview and the discussion was as lively as ever! So what was the verdict? There wasn’t one. But people had many intriguing perspectives. Here are some notable thoughts from participants:
[Use] “Dr…” to clarify your role as a healthcare professional & “…Ben” to build personal trust & rapport with patients – Scott McAfee, SPT (@McAfeePT)
Problem is society has = “doctor” w/ MD, when “doctor” is general term for terminal degree for many prof. – Brent Todd (@ToddBrent)
I think it helps to give our profession credibility to the patient/the public. Some-thing PT still needs help with.#DPTstudent – Maddie Williams, SPT (@Maddie_Williams)
A DPT friend of mine doesn’t use “Dr.” with pts bc he thinks it puts up a barrier/makes them feel less comfortable. – Kristen Lund, SPT (@lunderina)
Ideas from PTs and students were all over the map but it seemed like most leaned towards using the title with patients, but maybe not amongst colleagues. Dr. Ben Fung (@DrBenFung) noted that the title can increase trust with some patients, there-by increasing adherence and maybe even outcomes. Conversely, Dr. Joel Novak, PT, DPT (@JoelNovakPT) noted that “trust is earned through knowledge, care and listening to your patients… no title will ever replace that.” Of course, by posing these questions, we were not suggesting that the title replaces the need for the great communication, care and empathy it takes to be a good PT. Rather, the title can convey to your patients that you have been through years of post-graduate training.
A criticism raised repeatedly was that patients are confused by the title and associate it with physicians; however, Dr. Ben Fung posted multiple pop culture references supporting his opinion that people “get it.” The title of doctor no longer means physician. For example, few are confused by calling their dentist “doctor.” Meanwhile, TJ Janicky, SPT (@TJ_Janicky) noted that this issue may apply mostly in acute care, where medical professionals are coming in and out often. In this situation, where patients may be in various states of confusion, maybe we should take special care to say “I am Dr. NAME, your physical therapist.” Further, different cultural and situation-al factors may affect how positively your patients perceive the concept of doctor. Context is important.
Again, the overall leaning was toward using the title of doctor. Many agreed that physical therapists should introduce themselves as such and then give patients the option to interact on a first name basis. This establishes PTs as being on a doctoring level while maintaining the rapport that makes the profession so special. It also creates an opportunity to educate patients on what physical therapists do, opening the door to discussions about direct access, health literacy and advocacy. Dr. Ben Fung said it best when he ended with:
“Beyond the debate on titles, DPT is here; it will become the norm & needs to be leveraged for constructive legislative movement.”
While patient populations, clinical settings and personal branding differ between therapists, clinics, institutions and regions, the profession as a whole can likely agree that there is much progress to be made. Whether we like it or not, the DPT has arrived and serves as undeniable tool to pull more weight for legislative issues, wade through bureaucratic mud and leverage our profession in healthcare.
You can read the chat in its entirety at this link: bit.ly/VOwEqq.