It was a really close call at the Oscars, but Tom Hanks pipped fierce competition from Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck to win the Entertainment Provider of the year for his leading role in Sully. In an emotional speech, Hanks thanked his close family and said that he was privileged to have acted alongside so many other legendary entertainment providers in the movie. He then shockingly announced his imminent retirement from acting to focus on directing movies instead: “It has been an honor to entertain so many millions over the years, but now my goal is to nurture and grow new Entertainment Providers to serve future generations”.
The Oscars also gave an opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of Chesley Sullenberger himself, who received a lifetime achievement award from the National Aviation Agency for his dedication to being an outstanding role-model transportation provider and his heroics on that cold January day back in 2009. Accepting his award, he said that his generation of flight providers had overseen massive changes in the industry, with huge improvements in safety: “It is my hope that all flight transportation providers such as myself will commit themselves fully to maintaining only the highest standards in our skies. When I was growing up, Charles Linbergh was my hero, and I knew I wanted to be the best possible and most expert flight provider just like him. Standing here today is surreal, and I am deeply humbled”.
The evening ceremony wasn’t without controversy however, as a mix up saw the wrong Best Movie announced at the end of the night. After several minutes of extreme chaos, the award correctly went to Sully, with the wrongly announced movie cast gracefully accepting the botched result. However, it wasn’t all so accepting—as it became evident in the morning that legal service providers representing the cast had filed a complaint with the local district court in LA over the mix-up. The story continues.
Of course, the above report isn’t true, but even more ridiculous is the fact that we are refusing to call any of the above professionals by their true name. I’ve written previously about the now ubiquitous use of the word Provider, and how it has spread everywhere throughout our medical system. Physicians are either oblivious, jaded, lazy or simply extremely naive about the immense power of words. “Who is that patient’s provider?” “Which provider is covering clinic today?” “Who is the provider on-call?”. These statements are spoken across the country every day and their use is being actively encouraged by the medical hierarchy (even when the entire audience are physicians). This would have been unthinkable a few years ago. No other profession would allow their name to be replaced like that so easily, and it’s a tremendous shame that doctors have allowed this change in nomenclature to slip in right under our noses. Try calling a lawyer a “legal services provider”, an accountant a “financial services provider”, or a pilot a “flight transportation provider” to their face, and see what happens. These folk understand the power of semantics much better than doctors do. As a writer and someone who comprehends the gravity of the words we use in our everyday communication, and is also very proud of being a doctor, I personally take offence when somebody calls me a “Provider” before they call me a “Doctor”. It’s a non-descript and meaningless term for a noble and special profession.
There could easily be a motion by Physician Specialty boards, as articulated in this Open Letter, or even the new HHS Secretary, who is himself an experienced physician. Regardless of which other professionals are also practicing at the frontlines of medicine nowadays, taking a stand and insisting that physicians be called physicians is low-hanging fruit at a time when our profession has undergone so many changes. It’s free and easy to implement. Why do we not grab it?
Suneel Dhand is a physician, author, speaker and healthcare consultant. He has experience in a number of different healthcare environments, having worked up and down the East coast and also internationally. His specialty areas include hospital QI, optimizing healthcare IT, and improving the patient experience. He is the author of 3 books, including most recently “The Ultimate Patient Advocate in Your Pocket”, designed to help hospitalized patients. He is also the founder of HealthITImprove, an organization dedicated to improving and optimizing information technology at the frontlines of healthcare.