Are you a "Professor", or a "Mrs."?

  1. I was just talking to a new colleague of mine (who is my friend as well). She will be starting at my school this semester, and has worked in a state university in the past. We got on the subject of what the students call us at my school. I've always had a problem with this: they call us Mrs and Ms (unless you are a Dr). Some do call us Professor, if they have been in other schools before ours (b/c that's what all other students call their professors). But we refer to each other that way, so this is obviously where they are getting it from.

    I don't like this, for three reasons:
    -It makes me feel old (not to mention that some of my students are older than me, so it feels weird that they are calling me Ms).
    -It makes me feel like an elementary school teacher, especially when some of my colleagues call me Ms in front of the students (like they don't know we have first names)
    - I thought I earned the right to be called professor (we all have Master's degrees).

    One of my colleagues suggested it was because we don't have doctorates (they'd call us Dr. then). Others have suggested that it is b/c we are not a university, but a privately owned school.

    What are you called, and why?

    Incidentally, my friend said she is going to introduce herself as "Prof." She said she thinks it's weird to go from "Prof" to "Ms." I agree.
    Last edit by ProfRN4 on Aug 12, '09
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  3. by   elkpark
    You have not "earned the right" to be called "Professor" unless your official job title involves the word "Professor" (e.g., Professor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, etc.) In most schools, Master's-prepared people aren't eligible for professor appointments (they are officially "lecturers" or "instructors" or something), only doctorally-prepared people are, but that's not true for all schools -- so you should clarify with your school what your specific job title is (if you don't already know (?))

    In my last teaching position, in a BSN program at a state uni, I spent quite a bit of time (pleasantly) correcting students who called me "Professor," and explaining how the titles work in academia. I have no problem with students calling me "Ms. X," in fact, I instruct students at the beginning of a new term that's what I prefer to be called. My relationship to them is a professional one; we're not friends.
  4. by   llg
    It's best to ask about that sort of thing at faculty orientation -- or ask someone at the school (such as your supervisor) who knows what the customs are at your school. It's best to conform to the usual practices there.

    Currently I teach at a school where everyone with "professor" in their job title goes by the "professor" title -- even those who do not have a doctoral degree. At first that seemed a little weird to me as I was used to reserving that title to Full Professors only, with "Dr." used for doctorally prepared Associate and Assistant Professors. I felt a bit of a sham to be called Professor as I am only an Adjunct Associate Professor. It also seemed a bit weird to me to see a few non-doctorally prepared Assistants and Associates called "Professor."

    But over time, I got used to it.

    As for "first name" status ... It is customary where I work for post-licensure students and graduate students to be on a first name basis as we are all members of the same profession. However, that same privilege is generally not given to pre-licensure students.

    Ask about the local customs. Don't assume. If you assume wrong, you could look foolish.

    As for feeling "old" ... maybe it's time to start viewing yourself as a "full adult" rather than as a "pretty young thing." If we want people to respect us as full adult professionals equal to adults in other professions, we have to be willing to accept the "place" of being a full responsible adult worthy of respect. If we continue to address ourselves and encourage others to address us in a "diminutive" way, then we encourage the image that we are not on the same level as other adult professionals. Is some situations, I go by my first name. In other situations, I do not. But I do not shy away from using my full credentials when I want to be taken seriously as a professional.
    Last edit by llg on Aug 12, '09
  5. by   ProfRN4
    Thanks for your replies.

    I actually am not 100% sure of the exact despcrition, but I do know that all my colleagues fit the same description (with differences in being full time, part time and adjunct). It is quite possible that we are all "instructors" rather than professors. I will definitely look into that.

    And yes, the culture does suggest that we are called "Mrs and Ms", not Professor, as I mentioned in the OP. I am not the new hire, my friend is, and this is what I told her.

    I am wondering how it became assumed that I was this "pretty young thing", or that I was friends with my students, or wanted them to call me by my first name. That is far from the truth. I have more than enough friends outside of academia, and (quite contrary to what you've suggested) I am not looking to be treated in a diminutive way, nor did I suggest that I wanted to be addressed in such a way. My point is that I feel the term "Professor" sounds much more professional than being called "Mrs". I worked very hard to earn the respect I already receive from my students. BTW, young is a relative term, and in nursing academia, I am considered to be young, but I am certainly old enough to have been a nurse for 15 years, and have been teaching for 4 years. So please don't make assumptions about me
  6. by   llg
    Quote from nurse educate
    I am wondering how it became assumed that I was this "pretty young thing",:
    I hope you were't tooooo offended by the "pretty young thing" comment. It's just that you wrote that being called "Mrs." made you feel old and that you were younger than some of your students. Those comments gave me the impression that you weren't comfortable being "looked up to" as the senior person in a group of adults -- that you didn't feel ready to be the leader, the one in authority, or whatever. Apparently, that is not how you meant for those comments to come across.

    I got my Master's Degree at the age of 26 and started teaching a graduate school class right away. ALL of my students were older than I was and had more clinical experience than I had. I had a joint appointment at the time: so, I also had to establish myself as a CNS in the hospital. It was important for my career that I "grow up" quickly and learn to present myself as a person in authority at a young age.

    That was many years ago and now my hair is suitably gray and I look like people's mothers. So I don't have to work hard at appearing to be in authority anymore. It comes naturally.

    Using more formal forms of address can help establish your proper relationship with others. It can also help to avoid misunderstandings that can occur when students mistake cordiality with friendship and feel betrayed when their "friend" whom they call by her first name gives them a bad grade. While you can be on a first-name basis and remain totally professional (as is common in the workplace), some students get confused about that. They may not be accustomed to calling teachers by their first names and forget that "Susi" or "Joan" is still their teacher with a professional responsibility to fulfill.
  7. by   AOx1
    I hold a different viewpoint. I prefer to be called by my first name. This is just my preference. I do not respect someone based on a title, but on whether they are knowledgeable and earn respect. I teach at a smaller, more informal program, which likely factors into my viewpoint.

    For example, I know many MDs who are wonderful, caring, competent clinicians. I do not respect them because of their title, I respect them because of their competence and their professionalism. Also, I do not hold less respect for someone due to a lack of a title. If the housekeeper does his/her job professionally and with enthusiasm, I hold just as much respect for that individual as for the CEO.

    In large part what your students will call you will depend on the academic climate and requirements of your institution, your personal preferences, and also those of the students. Just as you will occasionally meet a student who will not be respectful of anyone, regardless of title, you will meet students who would never feel comfortable addressing someone in authority by their first name.

    I believe my authority is established by my knowledge base, experience, and education, as well as fair treatment of the students, not by any title I do or do not possess or utilize. The important thing is that professional boundaries exist, are clear, and that both students and faculty feel comfortable with how they are addressed.
  8. by   traumaRUs
    Hmmm - this is so interesting because I'm headed back to school tomorrow! I have an MSN and a post-MSN CNS already and am returning to the same college of nursing where I got my first post-MSN certificate.

    My advisor (PhD) and I have know each other for 16 years and enjoy working with each. Over the years we have held different positions (in both a clinical and education environment) and we have always been on a first name basis.

    Most of the other instructors are either an MSN or PhD and depending on the setting, I usually call them by their first names or Doctor so and so if I am referring to them in the third person.

    However, this school is not strict about this formality. Is there a policy in place?
  9. by   Goodoldnurse
    What an interesting conversation! At the small community college where I teach, all Masters Prepared faculty are titled "Professor" although in our small nursing program (we have a total of 70-80 students total) the students call us by our first name. Not out of disrespect, but the closeness we feel to our students.
    At the 4-year university where I adjunct in the summer, I am "Professor K......" since all faculty are called by that title. I had to look around to see who they were talking to!
    In the end, hopefully we are peers with our students. I only hope to have a positive impact on their lives.
    Well, there ya go!
  10. by   Whispera
    I've taught at a large state university for over a decade, and got my BSN there. First names have always been how students were to refer to instructors. In fact, we don't even have last names on our badges (neither students nor instructors). The idea is that we're a team. Instructors are the leaders/mentors but students are partners in their learning, not a rung below the instructors. I've never felt my students disrespected me. If they did, I don't think it had anything to do with the name I used.

    Another aspect of this is...even in med-surg (I teach psych, but have worked med-surg and hospice) having the bit of safety provided by not having a last name on the badge can be a desirable thing. Everywhere I've worked, we've had the option (and been encouraged) to keep our last name off the badge.
  11. by   BabyLady
    At the local University...not all instructors have doctorates.

    They have the titles of Assistant, Associate or full Professor.

    If you don't have a doctorate, the students refer you as Mr, Mrs, Miss, or Ms.

    Dr...obviously if you have a doctorate.

    I have never heard an instructor called "Professor ______"

    Students in the BS programs refer to instructors by their surnames.

    Students are on a first-name basis with instructors only at the graduate school...but not at the medical school here.
  12. by   showbizrn

    at one large university
    the clinical instrucrors
    are called by our first names.

    at one small ubiversity,
    the clinical instructors
    are called professor.

    :chuckle what a head trip!

    truth be told,
    i just want my students
    to learn their clinical skills.

    guess you can call me
  13. by   Whispera
    Actually, to follow up on showbizrn's post...YES, learning the skills is what counts! If I counted the times I was addressed, I bet it wouldn't cover all my fingers and toes over the course of over ten years.

    Go with what your school's general practice is and don't get tangled up in it...

  14. by   Annieb2
    Interesting. I'm a graduate student in the Nursing Education Program at a large University. I always address my professors with Dr. ...., until they tell me to call them by their first name that is how my professors are addressed.