About One DNP

I earned my "terminal practice" degree in nursing from the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in a journey of excitement and challenge. It inspired me to advocate for an all encompassing clinical credential rather than continuing the hodgepodge of nonsensical initials. I hope these entries will provide entertainment and insight into the Doctor of Nursing Practice experience, which will soon be the entry standard for all advanced practice nurses.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Beyond Nouns: The Role of Language on the Role Itself

As I have been educating people on "doctor-nurse" education and role, a confused laugh has become the expected reaction. Even I admit, I have referred to myself as doctor-nurse as a jocular shorthand to explain my credentials to colleagues. But why is it more amusing than a doctor-optometrist or doctor-physical therapist or doctor-pharmacist? I do not think it is the novelty alone as nurses have been getting educational and research doctorates for many years. Perhaps because in the clinical area, the two terms conjure up distinctly different images that do not easily meld. In yet another demonstration of how language is the way we view the world, I thought this deserved a little contemplation.

When people use the term "nursing" in the colloquial sense, they are usually referring to a nurturing role or healing process. Breast feeding, otherwise known as nursing, is a natural process of providing life-sustaining nourishment and immunity factors for growth and development from mother to child.  We also use it to refer to consumption of adult nourishment, such as "nursing" a whisky all evening. "Nursing" may also refer to the need to nourish and nurture pragmatic matters like retirement accounts or mild illness and injury.  Nursing, as in "back to health," brings to mind images of dressing wounds, holding hands,  providing words of support and encouragement, or enduring the process by handling with care (such as nursing a hangover brought on by the aforementioned whisky!).  People generally "nurse" others.

The colloquial use of "doctoring" often refers to fixing something.  This is particularly the case with under-spiced or pre-prepared foods that one needs to alter or, "doctor up" in order to be palatable. In the realm of home improvements, "doctoring"  refers to a quick fix, temporary patch-job, or a makeshift repair.  It can also refer to tampering with or altering something, such as "doctoring" the evidence. People generally "doctor" themselves.

We have doctored the nursing title of advanced practice, and are nursing an understanding of the doctor title in advanced nursing!

Perhaps this is why being a doctor-nurse is usually met with a giggle. I have doctored plenty of canned pasta sauces in my day, and certainly nursed my share of spirits, but I cannot say vice versa.  While I am not personally much for titles, I feel as one of the first crop of DNPs to hit the clinical setting, using the title is an important step to establishing an understanding of where advanced practice nursing is going on the (long) road to parity.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I'm a nurse and a writer, and I never before thought of the other ways we use "nurse" and "doctor" in conversation. Very interesting!