Sarah Erny: Nurse Practitioner Forced to Leave California After Violating “Dr.” Ban

Sarah Erny: Nurse Practitioner Forced to Leave California After Violating “Dr.” Ban

Sarah Erny always knew she wanted to care for others and follow in her parents’ footsteps. After earning her Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP), the highest degree in advanced nursing, Sarah began her career with a passion for helping her patients. However, her use of the title “Dr. Sarah” as an endearing term, even with the clarification that she is a nurse practitioner, led to a nightmare when she was accused of violating California’s law prohibiting non-physicians from using the title “doctor.”

Despite seeking guidance from professional associations and nursing boards, Sarah was unaware of the legal implications of using the title. California’s Medical Practice Act reserves the term “doctor” for licensed physicians and surgeons, with violators facing fines and loss of license. Although intended to protect patients, Sarah’s case highlights the confusion and unintended consequences of this restriction.

Born to a nurse mother and a father confined to a wheelchair, Sarah’s upbringing instilled a deep sense of compassion and a desire to care for others. After experiencing personal challenges, including a divorce and limited career choices, Sarah decided to pursue her passion for healthcare. She obtained a bachelor’s degree and then went on to earn her master’s and doctorate at esteemed institutions.

Sarah’s journey as a nurse practitioner was driven by her belief that nurses provide holistic care and view patients differently from physicians. Her focus on functional medicine, autoimmune diseases, and the underlying causes of health issues set her apart as a healthcare provider. Her genuine love for solving puzzles and finding solutions led to dedicated patient care.

However, California’s ban on using the title “Dr.” has forced Sarah to leave the state and face uncertainty in her career. In her case, the word “doctor” was appropriated to protect the titles of licensed physicians and surgeons. While Sarah unintentionally violated this restriction, she still faces consequences that threaten her livelihood.

As a passionate nurse practitioner, Sarah Erny continues to advocate for patient care and promote the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to healthcare. Her case sheds light on the need for clearer regulations and better communication between healthcare professionals and governing bodies.


  • Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP): The highest degree in advanced nursing, focusing on advanced clinical practice, leadership, and research.
  • Nurse Practitioner: A certified healthcare professional who provides primary and specialty care to patients, including diagnosing and treating medical conditions.
  • Medical Practice Act: A state law that governs the practice of medicine and outlines the requirements and regulations for healthcare professionals.

Sources: This article is a summary based on the following source article:

“Forcibly becoming a colonist: The Medical Board of California, nurse practitioners, and the ‘Dr.’ ban”

By Rebekah Bernard, MD

Published on January 25, 2022

This article is a summary created by an AI assistant based on the main points of the source article. It may not reflect the entirety of the original article.

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