How to address a Nurse



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HONOR & RESPECT

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   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Use of Rank by
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   3. Q&A on
       How to Address
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How to Address a Nurse

Envelope:
    (Full name), (RN, LPN, or other post nominal)
        (Name of practice, hospital, or clinic)
             (Address)

Letter salutation:
     Dear
Mr./Ms. (surname):


FYI, here is what's come in to the Blog that relates to this office/rank.
   For recent questions sent in, check out Robert Hickey's Blog.

   For specific offices/ranks, check out Robert Hickey's On-Line Guide.


How to Address a Nurse with a PhD?
      How do you address an envelope to Janice Wilson, a widowed and retired female individual who has her RN and a PhD?

      
       -- Director of Development, Health & Wellness Center

Dear DODH&WC,
       Nurses (and other professionals in field) typically don't use Dr. in the healthcare environment. Usually only the MD's are so addressed to prevent any confusion by the patients as to who is a 'doctor' and who is not.
       So this nurse would be on an official envelope:
                 Janice Wilson, PhD, RN

       I was assuming this was an official letter ... but maybe it's not. On social correspondence, post-nominals aren't used. So there she could be Dr. (Her Name) or Ms. (Her Name) or Mrs. (Husband's Full Name) if you know one of those is her preference.
       -- Robert Hickey

First Names Only on a Name Badge?
      How should one address a note of thanks to a medical professional, such as a person ranked MD, RN, or CNA, whose name badge gives only the person's first name and surname initial?
     I know her main physicians' surnames, but most of the medical team revealed only their first names and last name initials, such as Beth M., RN or Bob M., CNA on their name badges. This reminds me of elementary school, when we children were required to head our papers with only our given names and surname initials. That was appropriate for young children with emerging manual dexterity in a small classroom, but I do not understand how it makes sense in a professional setting, unless the personnel involved fear legal retribution, such as malpractice suits, and thus wish to hide their true identities.
     Please advise me on how to address these semi-anonymous professionals, who hold their patients' lives in their hands but will not reveal their full identifies.
     -- Taylor Stuart

Dear Taylor Stuart:
     As for your immediate concern, addressing an envelope and note, follow the lead of the individual ... and address them with the name you have
     The envelope:
             Beth M., RN
             Surgical Recovery Unit
             Wilson County Hospital
             4455 Wilson Road
             Wilsonville, State, ZIP

     The salutation:
             Dear Beth M.,

    
But to get a more thoughtful answer, I asked an expert on etiquette and professional polish in the medical arena -- Karen Hickman of Professional Courtesy, LLC -- (Karen is a graduate of The Protocol School of Washington®) for her take on it:
    The primary reasons medical personnel list first names only is for security reasons, but also because nurses are authorized to phone in prescriptions for physicians and there is less chance for a clever patient to call in medications using the nurses full name.
    Also, if the patient has an established relationship with the facility there is a chance that a manager or supervisor would share last names.
    Speaking from personal experience, from my nursing days, cards and notes of gratitude are always so appreciated by care givers. Gifts -- like candy or other food items should be sent to the team -- since ethically, nurses and physicians are discouraged from accepting personal gifts.

    Karen: I learned something from you today (no surprise!). Thank you.
                 -- Robert Hickey

What is The Order of Post-Nominals?
      I am doing a presentation on the many post nominals in the medical and nursing fields and what they stand for. There are several and for our nursing convention I am conducting a focus session on which post nominals to use and the correct order to present post nominals. Would you happen to have that information?
    -- Monica, RN, BSN

      I have been an RN for 15 years, and work in the healthcare industry as a home health regional preceptor.  I completed my BS in Health Sciences with a minor in Business Management in 2009, and have just received my Master’s in Healthcare Administration degree. I also hold certifications as an OASIS specialist and Homecare Coding Specialist, both required for my job.
      I have read that the educational degrees should be listed first, followed by licensure credentials since these may not be permanent, followed by any certifications. Following this, I would list my name and post nominals as Tina Atkins, MHA, BS, RN, COS-C, HCS-D.  I have observed many of my colleagues with multiple post nominals still putting their RN designation first, followed by the educational achievements.  In that case, mine would be listed as Tina Atkins, RN, MHA, BS, COS-C, HCS-D.
       Are either of those correct, or should it be listed in another format?

 
  -- Tina

Dear Monica & Tina,
    When I started my book I thought I would include a list
of every post-nominal abbreviation in the world and what each one meant. I soon realized there are so many post nominals in so many fields any list would always be incomplete. Plus, I found that if you put any mysterious post-nominal abbreviation into any search engine ... the answer was instantly there.
    Thus I decided to focus on how they are used ... not what could be used.
    On page 100 of my book I cover how to correctly sequence all types of post nominals (academic degrees, decorations, honorary degrees, professional associations & affiliations, religious orders, theological degrees, etc., etc., etc.).  In your case here's the pertinent sequence that I often see with nurses:
            First Academic Degrees
            Then Professional Licenses -- RN is a professional license.
            Then Professional Certifications
            Then Professional Associations & Affiliations
      If you have more than one in a category place them high to low, and you feel they are equal put them in alphabetical order.
      I see you both use or consider to list RN first then your academic degree. Among nursing literature on credentials, this is what I've seen is: Academic degrees (Highest one only): Licensure: State designations or requirements: National certifications; awards and honors; and finally other recognitions.
      And finally, there is a frequently cited 'rule' you should not include more than three post nominals after your name. That's a good guideline.  But, often people ultimately decide on what to include depending on what is directly pertinent to the service they are offering.

               -- Robert Hickey


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For forms of address for invitations, place cards, name badges, introductions, conversation, and all other formal uses, see Honor & Respect: the Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address.

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