In their book, From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate, Bernice Buresh and Suzanne Gordon propose that the title “Nurse” be resurrected as a means of identifying nurses to patients, families, and other health care providers. We should identify ourselves with the title Nurse before our last name. These authors say that nurses identifying self and other nurses to patients, families, and physicians by the title Nurse (as in Nurse Turpel) displays professional courtesy to each other and indicates that professional recognition is expected.
Buresh and Gordon list the same reasons that I’ve heard from nurses regarding not presenting their last names to patients. They address all of these reasons – being more approachable, invasion of privacy, last names are not necessary to garner respect, and potential dangers to health care providers – and provide arguments against them. Good arguments, but I’m not completely convinced.
There is something to be said for using titles when addressing someone. It’s the reason we teach our children to use Mr. and Mrs. when addressing adults instead of first names. Even when I remind students in my online classes that I prefer to be called by my first name, they continue to use “professor” or “Mrs. Turpel”. For the physicians I know well and call by first name, I still use the title Dr. when talking to them or about them in front of patients.
Buresh and Gordon’s entire book is about how nurses can present themselves so that the public and other health care professionals understand our role. Definitely, this is important. People still have no idea what nurses do. And, I do think there is plenty we can do to advance the nursing profession and communicate better about our profession with the public.
I’m still not sure about using the title Nurse, though. How about you?