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    You’re a pharmacist, not a physician: Get your own title

    David StanleyDavid StanleyA friend of mine who works as a pharmacy technician told me a story a while back that made me chuckle. A customer came up to the counter and asked the pharmacist to take a look at some blister-like thing that was growing on the end of his finger. It bled a lot at the slightest touch, he said, and he wanted to know what he should do about it.

    The pharmacist advised the man to check with a doctor. "Well, isn't that what I'm doing?" the confused customer asked. "It says doctor right on your name tag."

    The entire pharmacy staff had to suppress their laughter, because this pharmacist was one who took his PharmD very seriously, to the point of insisting that "Doctor" take the place of "Mister" whenever his name came up. 

    See also: What's in a name?

    We've probably all run into one of "those" pharmacists at some point, and this column is for them. To those pharmacists I say this: You're not a doctor, and please stop calling yourself one.

    Physician vs. doctor

    Now I fully understand that you have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, which gives you the title of "doctor" in the world of academia, the same title as for those who have earned PhDs in English, anthropology, political science, or any of the hundreds of other fields of study offered on college campuses.

    David Stanley, RPh
    David Stanley is a pharmacy owner, blogger, and professional writer in northern California. Contact him at [email protected]

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    • Anonymous
      I completely disagree with this article. The close-minded view point of our profession and the judgment of another pharmacist shows a real lack of professionalism. Please stop printing articles with such insignificant subject matter to the advancement of our profession. It also generalizes that the lay public is uneducated, I disagree with that thought as well. The average lay person does not walk into a pharmacy expecting a physician. The are expecting a pharmacist, with our without a title, who cares about their well-being.
    • Anonymous
      I completely disagree with this article. The close-minded view point of our profession and the judgment of another pharmacist shows a real lack of professionalism. Please stop printing articles with such insignificant subject matter to the advancement of our profession. It also generalizes that the lay public is uneducated, I disagree with that thought as well. The average lay person does not walk into a pharmacy expecting a physician. The are expecting a pharmacist, with our without a title, who cares about their well-being.
    • Anonymous
      I completely disagree with this article. The close-minded view point of our profession and the judgment of another pharmacist shows a real lack of professionalism. Please stop printing articles with such insignificant subject matter to the advancement of our profession. It also generalizes that the lay public is uneducated, I disagree with that thought as well. The average lay person does not walk into a pharmacy expecting a physician. The are expecting a pharmacist, with our without a title, who cares about their well-being.
    • Anonymous
      I completely disagree with this article. The close-minded view point of our profession and the judgment of another pharmacist shows a real lack of professionalism. Please stop printing articles with such insignificant subject matter to the advancement of our profession. It also generalizes that the lay public is uneducated, I disagree with that thought as well. The average lay person does not walk into a pharmacy expecting a physician. The are expecting a pharmacist, with our without a title, who cares about their well-being.
    • Anonymous
      I completely disagree with this article. The close-minded view point of our profession and the judgment of another pharmacist shows a real lack of professionalism. Please stop printing articles with such insignificant subject matter to the advancement of our profession. It also generalizes that the lay public is uneducated, I disagree with that thought as well. The average lay person does not walk into a pharmacy expecting a physician. The are expecting a pharmacist, with our without a title, who cares about their well-being.
    • papawellness[email protected]
      PHARMACISTS _ are top-notch Specialists that are responsible for Dispensing and Monitoring Lifesaving Medications; and no other Expert comes close. Obviously, Doctors are not limited to Physicians!
    • Anonymous
      And this division within pharmacy will continue and it's impact will continue to impede the progress of pharmacy profession until the crux is addressed - i.e. BS Pharm vs. PharmD. You notice that there is not this major discrepancy in degree when it comes to medicine. Until there is a mandate that all pharmacists have at a minimum PharmD then you will continue to have your colleagues minimize and kick you every chance they get for earning a PharmD. It's already prevalent in the Work place. Get a PharmD first then have the mouth to talk i.e don't address me as "Dr"
    • Anonymous
      Bruised some egos on this one. If you look at this from a viewpoint of the profession as a whole it makes sense.
    • Anonymous
      Bruised some egos on this one. If you look at this from a viewpoint of the profession as a whole it makes sense.
    • Anonymous
      As a pharmacist who earned his BS in Pharmacy in the eary 1980s and his PharmD in the early 2000s, I can say this is clearly a case of "sour grapes". If David had gone back to school like I did, I'm sure he wouldn't have printed this nonsense article. The only mistake that PharmD made was telling the patient to follow-up with a PHYSICIAN, not a doctor. I agree with all the comments made in the previous entries- many health professions have educational requirements resulting in the doctoral degree. The fact that David let the train pass him by, and is bitter as a result, is his own fault. His tag- drugmonkey- says it all.
    • Anonymous
      One of the reason that the pharmacy profession still struggles to gain respect is due to individual pharmacist like, David Stanley. There is no reason a person with a PharmD degree should not use his or her "doctorate" title. I can understand that David Stanley, should not be addressed as Dr. because he does not have a doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree. I am a clinical pharmacist working in primary care setting along with the primary care physicians. I do have my own patients panel, 1500 + patients with diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia. I address to my patients as, Dr.--,clinical pharmacist. The physicians that I work with also refer to me as Dr.---, clinical pharmacist.
    • Anonymous
      What a sad little man who wrote this article. This is an article that makes no sense and makes me wonder why I had to endure this at all.
    • Anonymous
      What a sad little man who wrote this article. This is an article that makes no sense and makes me wonder why I had to endure this at all.
    • Anonymous
      Mr. Stanley; highy trained Cardiologist, Neurologist, or Nephrologist couldn't help the gentelman with blister on his finger. they would have referred him to dermatologist but it doesn't make them less of doctors. Gentelman with blister could have gone to his PCP and after $100.00 office vist would have been referred to dematologist but at least he got that advice for free from good hearted Pharm D.
    • Anonymous
      Can the dentist (DDS) tell you what that man might have had on his finger? Can this dentist sign his/her letters "doctor"? Same question for an optometrist (OD), physical therapist (DPT), psychologist (PsyD), veterinarian (DVM)? Can all these health professions sign their letters "doctor"? I'm not sure how many of them can tell you what that man had on his finger, either. Pharmacists who have earned a PharmD, are free to use the title "doctor" just as much as any other healthcare provider with a similar doctorate degree in their field. HOWEVER, any individual choosing to use this title must accept the responsibility that it comes with. Individuals who use the title "doctor", are responsible for not misleading others into thinking they are physicians (MD) by providing the proper clarification. For example, "Hi, I'm. Dr X, the pharmacist/pharmacist clinician..." This is important in interactions with patients and other healthcare providers. However, in some situations, may not be necessary to the CONTEXT of the practice. When you call a dental office and ask for Dr. X, we all know you are asking for the dentist. When you call a veterinary office and are asking for Dr. X, we are know you are asking for a veterinarian. No one is confused and thinks they are asking for a physician in this case. So when you call a pharmacy or similar pharmacy practice and ask for Dr. X, you know you're asking for a pharmacist. This gets more complicated in a multi-practice setting or hospital, which is where it will be important to provide the recommended clarifications. In your example provided, the pharmacist who chooses to use his "doctor" title needs to be ready to address situations that he is unable to answer with a referral. So the answer to the confused man is: "Yes, I am the pharmacist who has doctor of pharmacy. I am able to recognize certain skin conditions especially if there is an over-the-counter item available, however, I am unable to recognize what you may have. I would recommend that you follow up with your physician or primary care provider who can provide you with more information or with the proper referral." So can pharmacists with a PharmD use the title "doctor"? YES, this is our title and it is an appropriate title! But this title should be used responsibly (and without obnoxious hubris).
    • [email protected]
      This is a very misguiding and sad article. Clearly the author is very uninformed RPH. You did well explaining what doctor means as person who has earned a doctorate degree being it either a PhD or a professional doctorate. Physicians are called doctors because they hold a doctorate in Medicine, hence MD. Your definition as a doctor of a person who diagnose and treat a disease is misleading because now PAs and NPs do similar but not called doctors because they did not earn a doctoral degree. Other healthcare professionals like Chiropractors, Dentists, Veterinarians, Optometrists, Psychologists, etc all call themselves doctors and not because they can treat a "blister bleeding finger" but because they think they have earned doctorate degree toward their field. When it comes to the treatment of certain diseases, physicians refer patients to other specialized physicians and doesn't mean they are not doctors. So is the reason why physicians and other clinicians consult pharmacists for their expertise in disease treatment, and without knowledge in diseases state, diagnosis and drug therapy pharmacists can not make those recommendations. The fact that pharmacists don't write prescriptions does not mean they can not diagnose and treat conditions. If a pharmacist has earned a doctorate degree toward their field of study then they are allowed to used that title as they please and not be criticized by another pharmacist who doesn't have one. Your analogy with anthropologist is erroneous because anthropologists don't work in clinics or round on hospital floors. You are definitely obsolete in your thinking and the old perception of the pharmacist is still in your own mind and so as the general public and this delusion should be eradicated. This is the reason why the profession can not make any strides in spite of the crucial contributions pharmacists are making to healthcare today. Today pharmacist dispensing fees have dwindled to nothing because of notions like this, they are not professionals so lets not pay them professional dispensing fees. The flaws with the PharmD is not the education but the way early educators who started the program did it. It lacked consensus between the educators, the medical community, policy makers and payers and clear definition of the utility of the PharmD advanced degree. Thats why over 50% of PharmD graduates are working in the retail to experience this ridicule.
    • [email protected]
      .This retired 4 y BS Pharmacist agrees with the author. Some older 3 y grads were better than some current Pharm D.s at some parts of Clinical Pharmacy, others not so. Yes, you 6 y people have earned your DR..Much better education than I received. In areas like this better to title yourself M.Smith Pharm D than Dr. Smith. Help avoid confusion. This BS could/would have given the pt the same response.
    • [email protected]
      .This retired 4 y BS Pharmacist agrees with the author. Some older 3 y grads were better than some current Pharm D.s at some parts of Clinical Pharmacy, others not so. Yes, you 6 y people have earned your DR..Much better education than I received. In areas like this better to title yourself M.Smith Pharm D than Dr. Smith. Help avoid confusion. This BS could/would have given the pt the same response.
    • [email protected]
      .This retired 4 y BS Pharmacist agrees with the author. Some older 3 y grads were better than some current Pharm D.s at some parts of Clinical Pharmacy, others not so. Yes, you 6 y people have earned your DR..Much better education than I received. In areas like this better to title yourself M.Smith Pharm D than Dr. Smith. Help avoid confusion. This BS could/would have given the pt the same response.