What’s In a Name?

“What’s in a name?

That which we call a rose,

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Every year I receive an invitation from a local hospital to attend a social gathering. This gathering of highly talented health care professionals is the New Provider Social. It is a lovely event, hosted by the hospital, to welcome and introduce new physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
The gathering is fun, interactive, with good food and camaraderie. However, every year that I decide to go, I end up regretting it.

I come home feeling a little upset at myself for watching he whole rigmarole once again.  I watch the introduction of physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants on the stage with the label of “New Provider”. I have seen highly trained trauma surgeons, neurosurgeons, internists and many physicians of all specialties introduced on stage with that same label.

There are so many reasons why physicians should not be labeled as providers. For a primer, read this article.

Labels and names do make a big difference. It has been shown that the word provider devalues doctors and contributes to physician burnout.  Therefore, when a healthcare system prides itself on trying to reduce physician burnout, it needs to abandon this label. It’s not too lengthy or too difficult to say New Physician/Clinician Social. Or just pick another name.

The worst part is that I have brought this up to my fellow physicians, some of  whom have sat at the same table with me, and none of them seemed to care. Or last least not care enough to say anything. They either don’t want to disturb the status quo or are part of the machinery that runs the system. The amount of apathy and lack of unity is disconcerting.

I have decided that I will not be going to the hospital’s New Provider Social again unless the name of the event is changed appropriately. I don’t think anyone will really notice or care, but at least I made a stand.

In as much as I love Shakespeare, I refuse to go by the name of Provider. 

Anupama Verma MD

Anupama Verma is a board-certified nephrologist practicing for close to seventeen years in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Nigeria and subsequently moved briefly to England. She then moved to the United States where she did her residency in internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania/ Presbyterian health system. She did her fellowship in Nephrology at Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia. She has lived and observed the practice of medicine on four continents and thus has unique insights into global healthcare. In addition, she teaches medical students and serves on the pharmaceutical and therapeutics committee at Bellin hospital. She believes strongly in preventive medicine and medical narratives to bring about change and healing. She is a patient and physician advocate and has contributed articles to KevinMD and Doximity among others. She is on Twitter and instagram @anuvmd. 

  2 comments for “What’s In a Name?

  1. Steve O'
    September 14, 2019 at 8:54 am

    The root of the matter is not the name. It is the assumptions which go to making the name.
    Should we create a name for a spurious class gathering unrelated identifications under a common umbrella – left-handed Arkansas voters registered as Democrats, say – we can see that such a class is absurd.
    Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP argued for a brilliant, and quintessentially American philosophy in Brown v. Board of Education; that is, the identification and handling of Americans based on their membership in a meritless class, is inherently discriminatory. That goes far beyond the condemnation of racism.
    When one hears the term “provider,” one asks the question – why is this class defined? The answer is that it principally exists for the manipulation of different classes of medical personnel as though they were identical.
    Physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants each have a professional identity that is inherently meaningful and well-defined. To pretend that there is a meaning to the term “provider” assumes an equivalence; it makes a statement. That statement is that they are interchangeable.
    The definition of “provider” is as absurd as the creation of divisions which are equally meaningless – the discriminations of “lesbian vascular surgeon” and “Indian nephrologist” are meaningless classifications of vascular surgeons and nephrologists, and are obnoxious.
    For a long time, we grew as a culture and realized that in our profession, all that mattered is skill and ability. We have come a long way from the Flexner report of 1910, progressive, but which assumed that we needed diversity in medicine so that those people would have doctors to treat their own.
    Providers are not things that can be used equivalently. Providers are not things. It is a bogus classification of humans designed to “process” other humans. It is a machine-world term for classifying human widgets. It is obnoxious.
    We are turning into an industrial world, even with the clear foreknowledge that such approaches are dehumanizing. Listen to Charlie Chaplin speak about humanity and inhumanity. This work is eighty years old. We have no excuses if we continue to go into the twilight.

  2. Benjamin A Van Raalte
    September 13, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    my apologies to Star Trek Bones

    Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a provider

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