Can PTs Use the Title Dr.?

Does the above introduction sound ok? Is it accurate? Would it confuse a new patient d lead them to believe you are a physician? Use of term Dr. by Physical Therapists is a thorny issue currently being debated in many healthcare settings.

With the move away from of the MPT (Masters of Physical Therapy) and towards the DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) virtually 100% of new PTs are entering the workforce today with a doctoral degree. So, with DPT after your name, can you use the title “Dr.”?

My own person opinion has gone full circle. When my department began constructing our DPT curriculum, I felt that the term Dr. was reserved for Physicians. I recalled many of my colleagues complaining about Chiropractors using Dr. and confusing patients. Today, I see the a much different healthcare landscape where multiple specialists may use the word doctor to describe themselves. In my own personal experience as a patient (battling adhesive capsulitis) I see my Physical Therapists, Luke, as leading a team of equals made of my PT, my family physician, an orthopedic surgeon and an orthopedist. My main treatment is exercise and stretching that he is prescribing. In addition, I think any possible confusion evaporates when you tag on the phrase “I’m your Physical Therapy” at the end of your introduction to a patient. And finally, after seeing how hard DPT students work, I think they’ve earned it.

Any finally, if we want to obsess over complete accuracy, the word “doctor” comes from the latin word, docco, which means “to teach”. So, maybe your college professors (with Ph.D.s) should be the only ones who should be allowed to use the title. :)

box: Want to wade into the debate? Check out the following article and online discussion:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/02/health/policy/02docs.html?
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/dpts-calling-themselves-doctors-and-physicians-why.455123/

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