How do you address a Nurse Practitioner?
January 22, 2019 8:20 AM   Subscribe

When visiting the doctor's office, what is etiquette around referring to the medical staff that we interact with? I know the amount of training and education that doctors and nurses complete and I want to respect their status. So, call an MD "Dr. So-and-so.” What about a nurse? Nurse Last-name? Nurse First-name? Just first name?

What about a CNP (Certified Nurse Practitioner) or DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) or nurse anesthetist? I've worked with several of these experts and I wasn't sure what honorific to give them. It felt odd to just use their first name, or Ms./Mrs. Last Name. Similarly, I wasn't sure if I should use the Doctor title either.
posted by pithy comment to Human Relations (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I address my NP as she introduced herself, which is by her first name. Every nurse and NP I’ve worked with as a patient does the same.
posted by mochapickle at 8:26 AM on January 22 [6 favorites]

Great question. I had to send a message through the practice's messaging system and stumbled on writing:

NP Doe,

Blah blah blah...

It did not feel right not giving her the respect she earned, but it was odd writing it as I did.
posted by AugustWest at 8:27 AM on January 22

I work in a medical office where we have both physicans and ARNPs. The nurse practitioners go by their first names here.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 8:46 AM on January 22

Thank you for being so thoughtful and considerate! I’m an NP and like to be called my first name. All of the NPs I know who have PhDs also prefer to be called by their first name. I would go with whatever they use to introduce themselves. I guess if you are calling to book an appointment you might say, “I’d like to see Sarah the Nurse Practitioner,” etc.
posted by stillmoving at 8:52 AM on January 22 [14 favorites]

My beloved, now retired NP of many years went by her first name. That felt odd to me too, like it was not respectful. But that’s how she introduced herself, so that’s what I called her.
posted by 41swans at 9:14 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

Several people have said it feels awkward to call a nurse by his or her first name. But while doctoring focuses on analysis and diagnosis, nursing focuses on care. Without putting down members of either profession, I can see how people who want to impress you with their diagnostic acumen might insist on being called "Doctor", while people who want to take care of you might want to be on a first-name basis.
posted by ubiquity at 9:48 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

The traditional way would be Nurse Lastname (think of the unpleasant Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), but I think most nurses (of any variety) these days would find that far too formal and would insist on being on a first name basis.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:02 AM on January 22

I think asking them directly, if you can, is the best idea, as people might have different preferences. I work with several NPs and PAs, and AFAIK they all introduce themselves by their first name. Some patients refer to them as Mr/Ms Lastname. (Or sometimes, Mr/Ms Firstname.)

Personally speaking, I (MD) would like to be on first name terms with my patients, but as a young woman of color doctoring in the South, I do feel professionally obligated to use Dr. Lastname and wear a white coat in a way that my white-haired department chair, or even my same-age white male colleague, does not.
posted by basalganglia at 10:11 AM on January 22 [6 favorites]

I use first names, as they have always introduced themselves that way. I notice more and more doctors are dropping the “Dr” honourifics and also just going by first names.
posted by saucysault at 10:22 AM on January 22

Agree w stillmoving as an NP. Just my first name. Name the NP or APRN is fine when needed to designate me in my role specifically. Nurse -name feels really weird on the few times a doctor has used it.
posted by cobaltnine at 10:31 AM on January 22

I call everyone by their first name, including my doctor. He didn’t invite me to, but if he can call me “Jane,” I can call him John. We’re all adults here.
posted by clseace at 5:05 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]

The role of nurse practitioner isn't old enough to have developed its own title, so technically the correct form of address would be the one earned by virtue of being a registered nurse: Nurse Lastname.

In practice, people introduce themselves, address each other, and expect you to address them by their first names, to the point where I've had to stop halfway through a form to ask for someone's last name.

You can always double-check by asking, "I don't know the correct form of address for a nurse practitioner: do I call you Nurse Lastname?" Guess the most formal and respectful option because it's less awkward to correct you downward than upward.

It's definitely not done to address any kind of nurse, even a PhD or DNP, as "doctor," I imagine because of the chance of confusion with the more common kind of doctor in hospitals.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:43 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]

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