with commentary from Past President of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery, Dr. David Teuscher
We are so much more than providers, and physicians are taking back language.
I have the good fortune to call Dr. David Teuscher, past president of the AAOS, my mentor, and my friend. In a recent call, I shared with him my passion to steer our AAOS culture away from the word “provider.” I shared my views and some pieces that I have written on the subject. We agreed to work together to share our thoughts with our AAOS membership and community.
The term provider has been used for generations to refer to the role adults play in our families and community, as we provide shelter, food, education, and love to those that depend upon us. In recent years, administrators in the field of healthcare have used the term “provider” to lump physicians and surgeons together with other clinicians. This can be disrespectful to doctors, other clinicians, and patients, as the confusing language obscures the roles of different clinicians play on the team that takes care of patients. (The term was also used in Nazi Germany to strip Jewish physicians, starting with female pediatricians, of the title “arzt,” or doctor, and instead refer to them as “behandler,” which loosely translates to provider.) Language matters.
Teuscher shares his thoughts below:
“We are not ‘providers’ for our patients; they expect and deserve something much more. We as physicians and surgeons are professional first and last in all that we say, will and do. When we answer the call from a statue of repose after midnight or afternoon, whether downrange, the ER, or the office; we are not providers.
We are providers for our families, our communities, our nation, our earth, and our own personal families of faith and worship. Every day we are asked to provide and we are leaders of providers in those realms, but there is our other true higher calling.
We have earned titles of higher responsibility: physician and surgeon. People respect us because they seek us on one of the worst days of their lives. Full of fear, injury, pain and/or dread of what we might reveal as their mortal truth, they seek hope that a true physician and surgeon can heal, treat, connect, communicate, and deliver.
Earn it. The only pathway to becoming a surgeon is a hazardous and steep climb through a narrow gate. Through the precipices of preparation, scholarship, leadership, certification, and proven professional practice is the only pathway to become one of us.
He who defines the word in the war of words is the one who wins the war. We are physicians and surgeons, not providers. Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerged from the fire, we have all been there and are now doctors. As physicians and surgeons, may the administrators of healthcare, the government, other clinicians, and most importantly, the patients who we serve, no longer call us providers. We earned it.”