Academic Medicine, journal of the American Association of Medical Colleges, has sent out a recent call for articles addressing the 2013 question of the year: “What is a doctor? What is a nurse?” Thirty years ago this would have been an absurd question. Not only would it have been absurd for doctors and nurses, but for patients too. Roles were clearly delineated within the disciplines, and the white coat indicated a doctor and the white uniform and cap identified the nurse.
There are several reasons why we have to ask the question posed by Academic Medicine. A big reason is the entry of women into the field of medicine. Another is the development of advanced degrees for nurses. The computerization of medical records has spurred increases the need for physician extenders to support practices. A huge reason recently has been cost-containment considerations. The erosion of the doctor as an ultimate authority figure and the rise of patient autonomy have leveled the field as well. To some extent access to education is in the mix also.
Educational level is usually part of the definition of a doctor or nurse. This is no longer a reliable indicator.
Read the full blog post here.