What would you call someone who had a doctoral degree in nursing? I wouldn’t think you’d be able to call them doctor as this would be confusing in the hospital setting. Is there a title used for a nurse with a doctorate degree?

  • This and another recent question academia.stackexchange.com/q/59293/16122 make me think about the distinction between "Doctor" as a job title, in medical settings, and as an honorific, for holders of doctoral degrees in general. It's a distinction that I believe fluent speakers accomodate without ever thinking about. Dec 6, 2015 at 18:07
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    They are doctors, but not medical doctors. That's why most people's badges in a hospital include one's credentials so you can distinguish, say, an MD surgeon from a PhD researcher from a DNP from a DPharm. Some US states make it illegal (!) for DNPs to use their rightfully earned title, though, so this answer will have geographic variation. Dec 6, 2015 at 18:16
  • I have seen "research nurse" in email signatures. It doesn't imply the PhD degree, but avoids possibility of confusion.
    – Davidmh
    Dec 7, 2015 at 10:38

2 Answers 2


You call him "Doctor Surname" unless you are sufficiently well-acquainted to call him by his given name. (I worked with someone with a DScN degree and she was called "Doctor Smith" by the physicians in committee meetings, etc.)

If you and this person will be working with patients, ask "How should I address you when there are patients present?" before the need arises. As guifa states in the comment above, the badge, or embroidered name, will show the degree, not the honorific.

Edited to add: The scope of practice of licensed healthcare professionals is set by state law, and the doctorate in nursing does not widen that scope in any state that I know about. Guifa's comment that some states, including my home state, restrict the title "doctor" in the context of health care is correct. You can expect the holder of a doctorate in nursing to know the restrictions, and to have a preference, so the best way to find out what to do when there are patients around is to ask.



PhDs in psychology go by Dr.; so can PhDs in nursing.

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    Please present some evidence that the opinion you give is correct. What you say is plausible but it's also plausible that people would want to avoid confusion between medical doctors and doctors of philosophy in medical contexts. Dec 6, 2015 at 22:16
  • @DavidRicherby - Evidence that at least some PhDs in psychology use their title: my son sees a PhD in psychology whom everyone calls Dr. // If there is some confusion, it can be cleared up; some medical doctors may look down their noses -- but that would be their problem. Look, in academia some PhDs choose not to go by "Dr" but that's a personal choice. Once you have your PhD you have every right to go by "Dr" if you wish to, and in a medical context it would make sense to do so, to make a distinction from the RNs. Dec 7, 2015 at 1:46
  • I've also seen PhDs doing research at NIH who were not MDs, but who went by "Dr." Dec 7, 2015 at 1:50

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