Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Professional Issues Forum

Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby bigmeg33 » Fri Nov 14, 2008 5:20 pm

Trying to get a general feeling from working PTs out there. Do you think that those PTs that have achieved the DPT should be able to call themselves Dr. So and SO if they want to? What about when speaking with other Doctors (MDs)? What about on mailings etc?
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby JAM777 » Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:09 pm

bigmeg33, yes, physical therapists with Doctorate degrees have every right to call themselves doctor. I have a Doctorate in physical therapy and I'm very proud of my accomplishment. You must be very careful to not tell a person with a Doctorate degree that they are not a doctor or that they cannot call themselves "doctor", when in fact, that is actually what they are. They are doctors in their particular professional field. It can be disrespectful to say that it is not appropriate for those with Doctorate degrees to call themselves doctor.

Keep in mind, there are various types of doctors in the world. There are medical doctors (MD), doctors of osteopathic (DO), doctors of chiropractic (DC), doctors of physical therapy (DPT), doctors of dentistry (DD), phylisophical doctorate (PhD), etc. Believe it or not, other doctors recognize those of us who have a DPT degree as Doctors of phyiscal therapy, as which they should. All of my patients understand that as well.

All that being said, I do not require that my patients call me doctor. Some do so on their own, some call me by my first name. I leave it up to them.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby Gawaine » Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:38 am

i think that in the academic world and the outpatient world (with patients who are cognitiviely fine), requesting that we be called "doctor" is totally fine... chiros do it, optometrists do it, some psychologists with doctorates do it... i think it's good for the profession, but the ramifications should also be considered: a patient calling you "doctor" brings not just respect but also a bit more responsibility... this can be a bit confusing or different for patients who aren't used to being friendly and open with their medical practitioners...

now in the inpatient/hospital setting, it's kind of a different story... introducing yourself as "doctor so and so" to a patient who is kind of out of it after surgery or a little confused due to a brain insult can lead him or her to be more confused about your role...

i'm actually interested in what people think about calling MDs by their first names: should we always call them "doctor ____" when addressing them, or are we close enough to be colleagues of theirs and therefore have the right to call them by their first names......?
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby csptqt » Sat Dec 20, 2008 6:06 pm

I feel we have the right to...but I do not use it. I don't even sign my notes "DPT", my licensing credential is a PT which is the only credential recognized by the AMA. However, in formal mailings to physicians, or in presentations, I will include PT, DPT and my other certifications because this demonstrates my level of education.

Having patients call me "doctor" is not something I'd even consider (however, a few do on their own)...the average patient has no concept of what the term "doctor" really means (which actually means "to teach"...physicians actually stole the term from the academic world...in reality, they are "physicians." )

As a side note for comparision, when I was finishing my tDPT everyone asked my husband if he was going to call me "doctor"...he said that was fine as long as when he finished his MBA I called him "master." ...yeah, right.

The only time I would consider using the term "doctor" is upon completion of my PhD...this really denotes a specialized level of education that goes above and beyond the norms of the profession.
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby drjohnjack » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:50 pm

Those PTs that have already achieve their goal could not be called as doctors. They are still a PT, and they are not doctors.
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby JeffHathaway » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:05 am

there is talk of grandfathering PT's to make all the older experienced PT's Doctors - what do you think about that? BTW that is exactly what podiatrists did when they starting using the term Doctor
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby advancedpt » Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:06 pm

I truly think it just comes down to ego or the person....good or bad..
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby katadromeas » Sat Apr 07, 2012 9:04 pm

I think this is common sense, if the degree you obtain is from an accredited program/university and it is called doctor of physical therapy, then you can call yourself doctor of physical therapy. You should not call your self just doctor though, same for a doctor of chiropractic, doctor of nursing and many more to follow ( I expect in the future doctor of massage therapy, doctor of athletic training etc). Most states require by law that when you market yourself as doctor, after your name you have to specify that you are a physical therapist, for example, Dr John Smith, PT, DPT. So according to state law (at least in CA), as a PT you cannot present yourself simply a doctor unless you have an MD/DO degree or a PhD.

Some people have such a big ego that they pursue the DPT just because they want to call themselves doctors. I think as PTs we are therapists more than anything else, and if that's not the reason why you are in this profession then you shouldn't be at all. Nowadays, if you are a PT already with a masters degree you can take 4 online courses and get the DPT(and most times for free out of your work's tuition benefits). Sometimes I feel that PTs are actually more respected without the DPT title, as some people have been abusing it, making the PTs come across as wannabe doctors instead of therapists. A lot of chiropractors (including the ones in this forum)make a fool of themselves when they present themselves to the general public simply as doctors (As when nothing follows it implies doctor of medicine) and it would be sad to see this happening with PTs as well.

In the future, when the people with certificates in PT, BS and MS retire, then all the PTs will be DPTs and will be known to the general public as DPTs( as all schools in the US now offer only DPT ). In addition, if a law passes prohibiting PTs without DPT to practice, or if DPTs are actually getting paid more(which I dont see happening as insurances don't care about your credentials), then things will be different and the DPT title will be more respected.
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby hn40211 » Sat Jun 16, 2012 1:39 pm

I don't know of a t-DPT program that only requires 4 courses. I earned my MSPT in 2000 and have spent the past 2 years earning my DPT degree from UTMB. All my courses have been relevant and challenging and have improved my foundational knowledge of PT practice. Also, I was able to focus my doctoral education on pediatrics which is my practice area (and was an area my MSPT program was very weak in). But beyond my pediatric courses, I have also completed evidence based practice, pharmacology, management, medical Spanish, and differential diagnosis. None of these have been "easy" courses, I assure you.

I will absolutely introduce myself as Dr. ____, physical therapist once I graduate this August. And my official signature will be Heidi ____, PT, MSPT, DPT. The term doctor refers to a level of education, not a specialty area. Medical doctors are physicians, not "doctors" as the public calls them. There are many people who are doctors. My optometrist is Dr. ___, my chiropractor is Dr. ___, my counselor is Dr. ____. Why can't I be Dr. ___, physical therapist? It's pretty short sighted to say that someone who has earned the title can't call themselves doctor just because you have a misunderstanding of the terminology.
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby katadromeas » Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:40 pm

hn40211 wrote:I don't know of a t-DPT program that only requires 4 courses. I earned my MSPT in 2000 and have spent the past 2 years earning my DPT degree from UTMB. All my courses have been relevant and challenging and have improved my foundational knowledge of PT practice. Also, I was able to focus my doctoral education on pediatrics which is my practice area (and was an area my MSPT program was very weak in). But beyond my pediatric courses, I have also completed evidence based practice, pharmacology, management, medical Spanish, and differential diagnosis. None of these have been "easy" courses, I assure you.

I will absolutely introduce myself as Dr. ____, physical therapist once I graduate this August. And my official signature will be Heidi ____, PT, MSPT, DPT. The term doctor refers to a level of education, not a specialty area. Medical doctors are physicians, not "doctors" as the public calls them. There are many people who are doctors. My optometrist is Dr. ___, my chiropractor is Dr. ___, my counselor is Dr. ____. Why can't I be Dr. ___, physical therapist? It's pretty short sighted to say that someone who has earned the title can't call themselves doctor just because you have a misunderstanding of the terminology.



Hey, good for you. You can introduce your self as a doctor now and you can add more titles after your name. This is what I'm talking about.
t-DPT is not a Phd that is full time and requires serious academic research, but anyway let's say, as you said, that your program was very demanding and time consuming. I've met a lot of PTs that completed programs not very demanding or time consuming. What do you think of that? You still carry the same title. Keep in mind that t-DPT programs are not currently accredited. Only 3 year entry-level DPT programs are. This means there is no "external approval" and therefore recognition for the t-DPT. This is not my opinion, it is a CAPTE decision as t-DPT programs are not standardized.
And yes, there are many t-DPT programs that require only 4 courses if you completed a strong MSPT program with pharmacology, radiology and evidenced based practice included. They allow you not to retake those.
Don't get me wrong, I think the DPT title in general has its benefits for the PT profession (legislative influence maybe etc), but it seems at this point it is more valuable in private practice as a marketing tool more than anything else.
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby Revolution » Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:34 am

hn40211 wrote:I don't know of a t-DPT program that only requires 4 courses. I earned my MSPT in 2000 and have spent the past 2 years earning my DPT degree from UTMB. All my courses have been relevant and challenging and have improved my foundational knowledge of PT practice. Also, I was able to focus my doctoral education on pediatrics which is my practice area (and was an area my MSPT program was very weak in). But beyond my pediatric courses, I have also completed evidence based practice, pharmacology, management, medical Spanish, and differential diagnosis. None of these have been "easy" courses, I assure you.

I will absolutely introduce myself as Dr. ____, physical therapist once I graduate this August. And my official signature will be Heidi ____, PT, MSPT, DPT. The term doctor refers to a level of education, not a specialty area. Medical doctors are physicians, not "doctors" as the public calls them. There are many people who are doctors. My optometrist is Dr. ___, my chiropractor is Dr. ___, my counselor is Dr. ____. Why can't I be Dr. ___, physical therapist? It's pretty short sighted to say that someone who has earned the title can't call themselves doctor just because you have a misunderstanding of the terminology.


I agree with you 100%. I would not call myself "doctor" in the inpatient setting just for the confusion of the patient. Doctor everywhere else. Ask what people get their PhD's in and sometimes they are not significant to their profession. I had an anatomy professor do her PhD in some type of bird... really? Who cares and what significance is that going to do for you?
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby swetadpt » Fri Jul 27, 2012 4:49 pm

There is nothing wrong in calling yourself and letting others know of your designations as "Doctors". You should be proud of your accomplishment of being a doctorate. However, it does come with equal responsibilities. So it all depends how you want to take it. I am doing my DPT however I like to go with my first name.
hope it helps
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Re: Should DPTs be called Doctor?

Postby asdfgboo » Sun Nov 25, 2012 11:25 pm

"Medical doctors are physicians, not "doctors" as the public calls them."

WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

MD stands for "Medicinae Doctor."

Although, yes, technically "doctor" was initially used in an academic setting to refer ONLY to a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), it was thereafter used to refer to ANY NUMBER of professional degrees...anything from a MD to a JD (Juris Doctor) to a DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy). However, in a clinical setting, the term is more colloquially understood to refer to a medical doctor, so this can be confusing to a patient. Bottom line is, WHO CARES. Introduce yourself however you want, but make it clear to the patient your role and responsibility in their clinical care. Remember, this can be important in the world of rehabilitation since there IS such a thing as a PM&R specialty which contains MDs who have trained in physical medicine, a 4 year residency BEYOND medical school.
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