When you think of someone in the professional medical field, their names are often accompanied by initials, such as M.D., D.O., G.P., P.A., O.D., N.P. or R.N., indicating their credentials, licenses or practice areas. However, there are some abbreviations that have recently sprouted that are causing some confusion in the medical world.
A new field of health practitioners has gained recent attention, made up of individuals that often have “PSC.D” or “D.PSc” following their names, indicating that they have “pastoral provider licenses.” Some who receive this “certification” call themselves doctors of pastoral medicine, which can be misleading to patients with more serious health problems.
Why is Pastoral Medicine Dangerous?
According to the Texas Medical Board’s president, some individuals in pastoral medicine claim that they are able to treat real medical conditions by way of new alternative practices. However, the Texas Medical Board does not recognize them; they are neither certified nor licensed and are not qualified to treat patients. The board has sent out more than a dozen cease and desist orders to people using the pastoral medicine certification. The board president stated that it is illegal to diagnose, treat or offer treatment without the appropriate training and proper licensing.
The Pastoral Medical Association, which is based in Texas and responsible for licensing individuals in all 50 states, claims the association has strict standards applicants must pass before being issued their certifications. However, the association would not share what these standards are, according to NPR.
Yet, the letters that follow their names continue to make these untrained individuals seem more professional and their advice seem more reliable to people who have real medical conditions. Patients are required to sign confidentiality agreements; their treatments are paid out-of-pocket because medical insurance companies rarely recognize these types of alternative treatments; and patients are required to sign agreements not to sue when a treatment does not work.
The Texas Medical Board Advises Patients to Research Qualifications When Receiving Treatments
While the Texas Medical Board can at least try to prevent these alternative practices from falsely advertising their ability to cure certain illnesses or conditions, the board can’t shut the practices down. However, the president of the board does have some advice that we can agree with and that is applicable towards anyone you receive treatment from: always research the qualifications. Just because a practitioner’s name has a bunch of letters following it does not mean that they are qualified or licensed to help you.