Recognition of MD training

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We are a group of hundreds of Canadian physicians who have been working to address practitioner misrepresentation for the past 2 years. In 2018 we started a petition and letter writing campaign that was sent to all provincial colleges and Ministers of Health. Our grassroots initiative was able to affect significant change in NB with a law now forbidding naturopaths to claim they are medically trained or family physicians. In BC as of January 2019, naturopaths claiming to be physicians or doctors without the naturopath qualifier will face sanctions, also thanks to our advocacy. These significant changes took place barely 6 months subsequent to our initiative with no prolonged court actions or at significant cost.

As a group we have noticed the insidious credentials ‘creep’ of health care providers claiming that their training is ‘equivalent’ to that of physicians. This is seen when Nurse Practitioners state that they offer the same but better care than Family Physicians, when midwives describe their services as being equivalent to that of ObGyns, or when naturopaths claim to be family medicine providers, naturopathic oncologists, etc. Most recently NB has hired 32 Nurse Practitioners to address a lack offamily physicians. These individuals will practice independently with no physician supervision. The NB Health Minister was quoted as saying that the hiring of 32 NPs ‘will cut the waiting list for a GP’, implying that an NP and FP are equivalent.

As a group we question why medical schools and our College regulatory bodies across the country have not been more vocal in addressing this misrepresentation of credentials. In order to be accredited members of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons or the College of Family Physicians of Canada we undergo rigorous medical training, complete licensing exams and have to show yearly proof of maintenance of competence. When NPs are then considered to be the equivalent of family physicians or allied health professionals such as midwives are allowed to state unchecked that they offer equivalent services to that of an OBGyn this leads us to question the imbalance in regulatory oversight.

Our group is not trying to discredit other health professionals. We are very concerned however with the increasing prevalence of misleading information in regards to levels of training and the free use of ‘equivalency’. As regulatory bodies we respectfully request that resources be allocated towards a national awareness campaign to help educate the public about the differences in education, hours of supervised clinical training and evidence-based practice that distinguishes medical doctors from other health professionals (ie NPs, physician assistants, naturopaths) One blatant example of misrepresentation is the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors tagline “Medically trained. Naturally focused” which, in our opinion, is unquestionably false advertising and an attempt to sow confusion.

Our request for an organized and national approach to this matter parallels the initiative by our family physician colleagues who are urging the CFPC to advocate for protected professional titles. The college is considering a campaign that would involve seeking legislated protection of the terms family medicine, family doctor and family physician so that only physicians with MD degrees providing care as family doctors would be eligible to use them. This effort could use the NB legal precedent against naturopath misrepresentation to support its position.

As physicians patient safety is our common objective. At the heart of this issue is not a professional turf war, but a genuine concern that the public have a right to health provider advertising that is accurate and understandable so that they can make an informed choice