Answer This Simple Question by Pat Conrad MD

Before we move on…We all had an interesting exchange last week about the curious rise of “nurse doctors”, wherein one respondent referred to them as part of “your supporting and collaborative team.”  That rhetoric is in line with this “5 Reasons to Get a Doctorate Degree in Nursing,” which apparently include research, access to better faculty posts, leadership blah-blah, and improving “the reputation and image of nurses in every area of practice.”  That sounds to me like nurse-doctors proving their indispensability by implementing more quality measuring programs to further eradicate any free time for in-the-trenches nurses, but then again I don’t buy a lot of infomercial claims.

A really interesting reason given to become a nurse-doctor is – deeeep breath – this:

The nursing view is unique. People who enter the nursing field do so to practice nursing, not because the schooling is easier than being a medical doctor. However, a nurse holding a doctorate degree can help level the playing field among medical doctors, psychiatrists, and nurses involved in a team. That is, if you were part of a project team that consisted of a medical doctor, a psychiatrist and a nurse all aimed to improve the care of patients entrusted to them, having a doctorate would “elevate” the nursing perspective to that of the other team members.”  And there you have it.

We have sprayed a lot of electronic ink back and forth here over several years about the degradation, dilution, and diminution of the role and worth of the physician relative to all the other “team members.”  The government, the screwed up insurance “market”, popular media, gender politics, and an unrelenting sense of egalitarian entitlement have all contributed to this.  It is exhausting, depressing, and it will not stop.

So I have a simple question, one that I really hope the non-physician “team members” who follow this site will be forthright enough to answer:

Are there any roles, responsibilities, or activities that should only reside with, be reserved to, or be performed solely by actual physicians?

I await your answer.