"Sir or Ma'am" when addressing physicians?

Posted
by nurs4kids nurs4kids Member Nurse

Specializes in Pediatric Rehabilitation. Has 20 years experience.

You are reading page 3 of "Sir or Ma'am" when addressing physicians?. If you want to start from the beginning Go to First Page.

When addressing physicians, I..

  1. 1. When addressing physicians, I..

    • 14
      ALWAYS say, "sir" or "ma'am"
    • 21
      SOMETIMES say, "sir or "ma'am"
    • 24
      NEVER say, "sir" or "ma'am"
    • 35
      You're kidding, right? This is 2012!
    • 32
      It's simply a personal choice.

126 members have participated

BuckyBadgerRN

BuckyBadgerRN, ASN, RN

Specializes in HH, Peds, Rehab, Clinical. Has 4 years experience. 3,520 Posts

Just curious to the general opinion of fellow nurses. Raised and practice in the south, but ran into a funny debate this past week. While I was raised to say ma'am and sir, it is not my practice to do so when addressing doctors at work. Maybe because I'm older than most of them or perhaps it just isn't customary? I'm not sure.

The debate arose as another coworker and I listened (and cringed) to a nurse on the phone with a doctor. A well raised (by southern standards) 24 year old, he seems to amost be excessive with the, "yes, sir..yes, sir...yes sir" in his telephone conversations. He's a great kid (I only pray mine will turn out so well) and when we mentioned to him he may want to tone down the "sir's" he was visably offended. We tried explaining that he was setting himself up to be "run over" by being submissive, but he didn't buy that--said if he got run over it'd be because he allowed himself to be run over, not because he was being respectful (he may have a point?).

Most of our physician's are not from the south and most that we deal with are residents, so they are also very young.

All this left me pondering what is the PROFESSIONAL standard for addressing physicians?

Food for thought...

I'd say it depends on what the physician thinks as well. If I were an MD and someone called me Ma'am, I'd stop them short and ask them not to do that again, LOL

Good Morning, Gil

Good Morning, Gil

Specializes in Rehab, critical care. Has 3 years experience. 607 Posts

I just call them Dr. (whatever their name is). That's their name, and they earned the title Dr, so I think it's disrespectful when nurses call doctors by their first names unless they know them personally or the doctors prefer to be called by first name. I don't idolize them or anything lol, just my opinion.

blondy2061h

blondy2061h, MSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology. Has 15 years experience. 1 Article; 4,094 Posts

This reminds me of my southern raised patient that kept calling me ma'am. I'm like, "Please stop." Being born and raised in the north, ma'am isn't something we hear hardly ever. I'm solidly in the "young adult" range and he was solidly in the "middle aged" range. He wouldn't stop, but kept insisting I call him by his first name. I was like, "Sure, as soon as you stop calling me ma'am."

blondy2061h

blondy2061h, MSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology. Has 15 years experience. 1 Article; 4,094 Posts

I just call them Dr. (whatever their name is). That's their name, and they earned the title Dr, so I think it's disrespectful when nurses call doctors by their first names unless they know them personally or the doctors prefer to be called by first name. I don't idolize them or anything lol, just my opinion.

I call the pharmacists, physical therapists, and director of nursing all by the first names, and they have all earned the title of doctor too.

AMN74

AMN74

Has 26 years experience. 124 Posts

I guess I'm OLD. When I went to nursing school, not only did you address the Doctor by Dr. SoandSo but all of the nurses would have to stand up when they entered the nursing station. I have been out of hospital nursing for more than 20 years but still when I see doctors or frequently call doctors I always address them by Dr. SoandSo even if it's over the phone. I worked with a doctor in a clinic for a couple of years and he was older and "from the south" and requested that I always call him Dr. X. So even in our break room as he was pilfering through my lunch I would call him Dr.X. He always referred to me as Nurse April, and that is just how he preferred it. He told me one day that if we get out of the habit in private by addressing each other professionally then it would carry over to patient care and he always wanted to be referred to as Doctor in front of patients. As a matter of fact, I went to his house several times after hours to fix his home computer and we still referred to each other as Dr. and Nurse. I always call them Dr. Not sir, not ma'am, not Mr. not Ms. not Mrs. Just something that was drilled into my head I guess and I see it as professional respect. They can call me MUD, but I'd still call them Dr. :) They earned their degree, I earned mine...But more importantly I keep my level of respect like my momma taught me to do. :) That does not mean I do not see them as professional equals it's just titles.

SuperStarRN

Specializes in Dialysis. Has 8 years experience. 111 Posts

I personally say yes ma'am and yes sir to allof my co-workers. My family is from southern MS, not to mention my father and other members are prior military so it is the way I was raised. The only time I don't say yes ma'am/sir is if they ask that I not say it in which case I am happy to oblige due to not wanting to offend someone. Not too many people seem to mind though.

DixieRedHead

DixieRedHead, ASN, RN

Specializes in ED/ICU/TELEMETRY/LTC. Has 20 years experience. 638 Posts

I have had many doctors call me Ma'am. I call all doctors "Doctor". Life is easy.

tothepointeLVN

tothepointeLVN, LVN

Specializes in Hospice / Ambulatory Clinic. Has 3 years experience. 2,246 Posts

I'm in SoCal and weirdly enough I won't call the Dr's Sir/Ma'am just Dr X but I will call the patients Sir and Ma'am

Vespertinas

652 Posts

If it's an attending who I am not close with, I call him Dr. X. When I started nursing, I'd call all the residents Dr. as well but they all detested that. I replied that they earned it but they insisted. Very well, I now call them all by their first names.

Now my biggest problem with it is that it's how they all identify themselves even if I've never spoken to them before. If I have no idea who you are and I end the (strictly clinical) conversation with, "and who am I speaking with?" that MEANS I need your last name for reference or documentation, not so we can go grab a beer later.

donsterRN, ASN, BSN

Specializes in Cardiac Care. Has 10 years experience. 2,558 Posts

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.

Yes, this. ^

I think this is a generational situation. I was taught to treat every person with whom I come in contact (not just my elders) with respect. Even today, I call the cable guy, the mailman, the restaurant server, the receptionist at my doctor's office, the nursing assistants with whom I work... everyone, Sir or Ma'am, until they tell me otherwise.

I don't see this used very much with younger people.

leslie :-D

11,191 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.

i agree, that i've encountered many women who detest being addressed as "ma'am".

never understood it.

to me, it's a term of respect and has nothing to do with age.

that said, i do use sir/ma'am quite frequently...

but it has nothing to do with one's title or social status.

leslie

redhead_NURSE98!, ADN, BSN

Specializes in Med/surg, Quality & Risk. Has 11 years experience. 1,086 Posts

I call them sir till they tell me not to!!! However I don't like when people call me ma'am. I feel old, that's all. I also can't stand to call people younger than me "ma'am." If someone's 20 and I think I need a term of respect, I call them "miss." I have gotten flack from friends for this, but yo I'm older than them and I don't like to be called ma'am, do they really think a 20 year old wants to be?