In his speech to Congress last night, President Obama referred to “doctors and health care providers.” I’m not sure why he used this language and I may be splitting hairs, but some people might question why he wouldn’t consider physicians to be “health care providers.” Perhaps it’s because physicians hate the phrase. I have heard more than one physician object to it, even when it’s intended to represent all of the people who are involved in providing health care to people. Physicians seem to find it demeaning. It’s almost as if they don’t want to be part of the team—they want to be apart from it and always in the lead, even if they aren’t best suited to be the one leading the team (for example, when a patient with mental health and complex social problems is being seen by an interdisciplinary team that is headed by a social worker who is the best person to coordinate the patient’s care).


This attitude of seeing oneself as special and apart from all others in health care ends up: 1) creating too many unnecessary turf battles (consider physicians’ objections to nurse practitioners with doctorates being called “Doctor Smith” even if the nurse makes it clear to patients that he or she is a nurse practitioner); 2) interfering with access to care (AJN wrote

[subscription required] about physicians’ objecting to nurse practitioners heading—and being paid for–medical or health homes, even when no doctor lives in the community); and 3) undermining respectful teamwork that’s so essential to safe, coordinated care.

–Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, AJN Editor-in-Chief

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