What’s In a Name?
After discovering that the guy who swept her off her feet at a ball is her family’s sworn enemy, Juliet boldly tells Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” She adores Romeo for who he is, not what he’s called. Learning his last name doesn’t change her feelings for Romeo, just as changing the name of a beautiful, fragrant flower doesn’t affect its splendor.
While in Juliet’s heart names don’t matter, the entire tragedy revolves around the young lovers’ efforts to hide their relationship through complicated plans and risky decisions. In the end, their star-crossed destiny – caused by their names – is too much to overcome.
A cautionary tale about love at first sight and family feuds, Romeo and Juliet also speaks to the importance of being transparent about one’s identity. In fact, it turns out that the answer to “what’s in a name?” is a lot, especially when it comes to patient care and safety.
What’s in a Name and Patient Safety
At the 2022 American Medical Association annual meeting, a report from the AMA Council on Medical Education brought to light that physician assistant and nursing programs have been using terms such as “resident,” “fellow,” and “attending”— to describe their practitioners. These terms, however, are associated by laypeople with physicians. This appropriation of terms can lead to confusion about the level of expertise and experience of healthcare providers.
If, for example, a person ends up in a hospital setting and is treated by an “attending,” the patient might justifiably assume this attending is a doctor, which it might well be a nurse or physician assistant. The name, quite simply, is confusing at best and misleading at worst.
Doctor ≠ Attending;
Doctor ≠ Resident; and
Doctor ≠ Fellow.
The AMA strongly believes that “patients deserve care led by physicians— the most highly educated, trained and skilled health professionals. The AMA vigorously defends the practice of medicine against scope-of-practice expansions that may threaten patient safety.” Patients likewise expect their care to be directed by physicians and must be wary of non-physician providers who may overstep their scope-of-practice. This sort of overstep is made easier when patients cannot readily distinguish between physician and non-physician providers. Titles – “Resident,” “Fellow,” “Attending” – are one-way patients get information about who is whom in a hospital.
Making “Names” More Transparent
To avoid misperceptions and maintain transparency, the AMA report recommended the AMA work with institutions that train nonphysicians in health care careers to create a different way to classify these professionals. Furthermore, to safeguard the titles already in use by physicians, AMA policy was updated to urge health professionals to clarify their qualifications and current training status for patients. The AMA will develop state legislation that requires this transparency and “support state legislation that would make it a felony to misrepresent oneself as a physician.”
Patients already are in a vulnerable situation when they are injured or sick. They shouldn’t have to be worried or confused about the credentials of their healthcare professionals. If you or someone you love feels that a healthcare professional has misrepresented their level of expertise or training to you, and you or your loved one suffered injury as a result, please contact our experienced Cleveland malpractice lawyers to discuss your options for legal recourse and for obtaining the compensation you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call 216-287-0900 or contact us online today.