By Peggy McDaniel, BSN, RN

A while back, a poll on the AJN Website asked if PhD-prepared nurses should be addressed as “doctor.” My answer was an emphatic “yes!” Janie, an old friend of mine, just graduated with her doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree this past spring. She recently opened up her own clinic, serving kids as a primary health care provider in Portland, Oregon. She is the inspiration for my vote, but her chosen path isn’t easy.

Janie is filling a void in Portland that few providers are willing to address. She’s called Dr. Janie, and she well deserves the title. I have been a foster parent here in Oregon for the past few years. The kids that enter foster care often come from neglectful and/or abusive situations. These children can be hungry, fearful, wary, dirty, sad, and often confused and angry. They also deeply crave a sense of safety.

The state requires that these children be seen within 30 days of entering foster care. Getting them seen is a huge challenge. The requirement is, in theory, a great idea—these children often have multiple medical and psychosocial needs that have been neglected. But I couldn’t find a clinic in Portland that would take a “new patient” with welfare insurance within that time frame. It was often days or longer before I would find out basic information such as allergies about the children I was asked to care for. As a nurse, I found this lack of information to be unsettling, to say the least.

Janie has largely focused her practice on these children in need of prompt medical care. The article I linked to above points out the time and energy that Janie is willing to invest in these kids. I would argue that this style of “doctoring” is rarely seen in caregivers that do not have nursing as their base education. As the saying goes, “Once a nurse, always a nurse . . . ” From the reports of parents visiting Janie, this has never been more true.

There has been much discussion around nurses making a big difference in our health care system. Janie is a shining example of the new model of primary care—and a nurse on the front line. I’m sure there are many other nurses out there quietly answering the much debated question of how a nurse can be called a doctor.

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