TESTIMONY OF THE MAINE MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
IN OPPOSITION TO
L.D. 538, AN ACT TO ALLOW ADVANCED PRACTICE REGISTERED NURSES WHO HAVE ATTAINED CERTAIN DEGREES TO USE THE TITLE OF DOCTOR
JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON LABOR, COMMERCE, RESEARCH AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
ROOM 228, CROSS STATE OFFICE BUILDING
March 21, 2017
Good afternoon Senator Volk, Representative Fecteau and members of the Committee. My name is Gordon Smith, I reside in East Winthrop, Maine and I serve as Executive Vice President of the Maine Medical Association. The Association is a professional organization representing more than 4000 physicians, residents, and medical students in Maine whose mission is to support Maine physicians, advance the quality of medicine in Maine and promote the health of all Maine citizens.
Believe me, I take no pleasure today in being here in opposition to a bill sponsored by my friend and colleague Representative Perry. I say colleague as Representative Perry and I have been working together for the past fifteen years to combat prescription drug abuse in the state and there is no one I respect more who is on the front lines treating patients in Washington County. But, L.D. 538 is a flawed proposal and flies in the face of a law that this committee worked on with all the health professions back in 2013.
During the 126th Legislature, L.D. 727, An Act Establishing Health Care Practitioner Transparency Requirements was a "truth in advertising" bill and was unanimously supported by this committee and signed into law on June 18, 2013. The bill was introduced in recognition of the trend in health care for health care professionals to work as a team. And in doing so, it is important for patients to know the qualifications and licensure of the professional they are working with. The portion of the bill that is relevant to L.D. 538 is the section of the law that requires a health care practitioner seeing patients on a face-to-face basis to wear a name badge or some other form of identification that clearly discloses (1) the practitioner's name and (2) the type of license, registration or certification the health care practitioner holds, including the common term for the health care practitioner's profession.
As a result of the law, which is similar to laws passed in more than a dozen states, when a patient goes into a clinic, a medical practice or a hospital, they will be treated by many capable health care professionals and on their name badge will be the word, doctor, or nurse, or physician assistant, podiatrist or nurse practitioner. The individual practitioners may certainly list their credentials, but the common term for their profession must be disclosed. For example, John Jones, PA-C, Physician Assistant; John Jones, M.D., Doctor (or Physician) and Jane Jones, RN, APRN, Nurse Practitioner. A podiatrist, who has a doctorate in podiatric medicine is designated, John Jones, DPM, Podiatrist. Again, the goal is very clear to inform and not mislead the patient.
What L.D. 538 does is allow a nurse practitioner (APRN) who holds a doctorate in nursing practice or a doctorate in philosophy in nursing to hold themselves out as Doctor Jane Jones, DNP or Doctor Jane Jones, PhD. But a patient would rarely know what a DNP means and will likely focus on the common term," Doctor." While I am certain the bill is well intended, it really would have the effect of misleading patients, leading them to believe a nurse is a medical doctor. For the life of me, I do not know why a nurse practitioner, or an advanced practice registered nurse, would want to put themselves in this position. Nursing, after all, is regularly found in public polling to be the most respected health profession in the world. Be proud of it, embrace it. The patients love you and there is no reason on earth for you to be holding yourselves out as doctors.
I am proud to hold a Juris Doctorate degree from Boston College Law School. But, I do not wear a name badge saying “Doctor Smith.” “Attorney” or “Lawyer” would be our common term. And “Nurse Practitioner” would be the common term under Title 24, section 2988, our transparency law. Its simply a matter of truth in advertising.
Should you determine that there is merit in this proposal, and I sincerely hope you will not, then I respectfully ask that you include the following language clarifying that the language is not intended to interfere with the policies of a licensed health care facility or to take priority over the provisions of 24 MRSA Section 2988 (3)(B), a copy of which I have attached to my testimony.
Thank you for your consideration and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.