As more and more nurses, pharmacists, and physical therapists are earning PhD degrees, a battle is raging over which health care professionals can use the prestigious title "doctor," reports the New York Times. Nurses especially are pursuing doctorates, eager to increase their pay and promotional opportunities—last year, 153 schools handed out 7,037 doctor of nursing practice degrees, compared to just four schools and 170 degrees in 2004—but PhDs are increasingly required in pharmacy and physical therapy, too.
“There is real concern that the use of the word ‘doctor’ will not be clear to patients,” said the chairman of the American Academy of Family Physicians. There are bills pending in New York state and Congress that would restrict the use of "doctor," and many states already require non-MD doctors to immediately clarify their job when they use the title. But the fight is about more than just prestige, notes the Times: It's also about who gets to treat patients first, and who pulls in the lucrative benefits from that treatment.