"Sir or Ma'am" when addressing physicians?


  • Specializes in Pediatric Rehabilitation. Has 20 years experience.

You are reading page 2 of "Sir or Ma'am" when addressing physicians?

  1. When addressing physicians, I..

    • 14
      ALWAYS say, "sir" or "ma'am"
    • 21
      SOMETIMES say, "sir or "ma'am"
    • 25
      NEVER say, "sir" or "ma'am"
    • 35
      You're kidding, right? This is 2012!
    • 32
      It's simply a personal choice.

116 members have participated


5,978 Posts

Specializes in Oncology; medical specialty website.
I call them whatever they want to be called (some have requested I call them by their first names)...but if they don't have a preference, I'll default to Doctor or Mr./Ms. X. I also hand disrespect right back to them.

At my previous job, I called just about all the docs by their first names. There was one, however, who I really didn't like. I always addressed him as "Dr. *****. I used a special sort of inflection when I said "Doctor," which was my backhanded way of being disrespectful.

I know, it was petty.


932 Posts

I hate it when people call me ma'am. Makes me feel elderly and dowager-like. But I think that is a woman thing.

It's different with men though.


5,978 Posts

Specializes in Oncology; medical specialty website.
When I speak privately to a physician (over the phone, in a work area, during multidisciplinary rounds), I call them by their first name. When I speak to the physician in front of patient/family OR when I refer to the physician, while speaking to patient/family, I call them Dr. So-and-So.

That reminds me of something that happened several years ago. I was at the bedside with a resident who I'd worked with for a while. We always called him by his first name. Anyway, in the course of the conversation, I just called him by his first name.

Later on, he said to me "I'd appreciate it if you called me "Dr. *****" in front of patients and not by my first name." I felt sort of bad, because he was right; it was just involuntary. He didn't make a big deal out of it, though. He was a pretty nice guy.

Ruby Vee, BSN

67 Articles; 14,023 Posts

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

"sir" or "ma'am"? i usually call them by their first names unless they're doing something stupid that needs to stop immediately. as in "are you sure you really want to push that propofal through the femoral arterial line, doctor?" or "are you sure you really want to defibrillate that artifact, doctor?" if i'm talking to a patient about them ("dr. imaflamingdonkeybutt may have told you that you were allowed to smoke in bed here in the icu, but he's incorrect about that") i call them doctor.

in my old hospital, it was standard for the attendings to bring the brand new residents around, introduce them to the experienced icu nurses and say "this is ruby. if she tells you something, listen. if you don't listen and you go ahead and do something stupid, i will hear about it and you won't want to be you." they weren't introduced to the inexperienced icu nurses in quite the same manner, so they knew who to listen to.

"sir" or "ma'am" may be a southern thing, and although i currently dwell south of the mason-dixon line, i am a yankee (or to quote my late sister-in-law, a "damned yankee") through and through.


1,024 Posts

Specializes in Peds Medical Floor. Has 12 years experience.

I would never call a doc sir or ma'am. I call them Dr Whatever. I am always polite, but I was taught we are equals.

Has 3 years experience.

Doctor is appropriate enough. I don't like using sir or ma'am to address doctors. There is one nurse I know of who does this, and it annoys me, because she sets herself up to be trampled over. And she is often trampled over. She is from the same ethnic group as I am, but she is a recent immigrant from the country that my parents came from. It's the way she was raised.

healthstar, BSN, RN

1 Article; 944 Posts

Both...are ugly words to say! When people call me ma'am...my heart skips many beats lol

babyNP., APRN

1,921 Posts

Specializes in NICU. Has 15 years experience.

With the docs I know and work with, I call them by their first name and they'll even answer their phone, "This is __" and use their first name. When discussing with parents or introducing, I always say, "This is Dr. so and so." With outside specialty services, I generally use ma'am/sir simply because I don't know what else to call them, lol! Or sometimes get into a bad habit of, "Oh, hello. Are you genetics?"


837 Posts

Very few people where I live say Sir and even less say Ma'am.

If you were brought up saying Sir or Ma'am then I don't see a problem, and I agree with your co-worker.

Never used sir or ma'am . It is not done, or almost never, where I am from . If it is , it is sometimes in a mocking way. Where I work I mostly deal with residents who are my age or a little bit older so that would be weird to me. I have seen some nurses use it who use it with everyone and 1 was ex military from the south, and the other was from the south.

KelRN215, BSN, RN

1 Article; 7,349 Posts

Specializes in Pedi. Has 16 years experience.

I have never called a colleague "sir" or "ma'am". Attendings, I'll call "Dr. soandso" but if it's an attending I knew as a resident/fellow, a fellow or a resident, I call them by their first name. If it's in front of a patient or I'm referencing the doctor in speaking to the patient, I call them "Dr." I don't think I've ever used the word "sir" in my life. I'm from the Northeast.

The most annoying with the "first name doctors" who I do not really know is when I page the random dr on call for say plastics and someone calls back saying, " hey, this is mike". Who, what? and I try to think who the hell is mike when he says," I was paged about Jones" then it all comes back to me.