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I am having difficulties deciding whether to use an indefinite article when quoting a person with their job mentioned as per the title.

As nurse Jane Doe once said: ...

or

As a nurse Jane Doe once said: ...

I cannot find any good reference online.

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The indefinite article is needed before a profession when someone expresses the career they would like to pursue. For example,

John says he wants to be an accountant.
Jane wants to be a dentist when she finishes college.

The indefinite article is also used when we say what a person does for a living;

John is an accountant.
Jane's a dentist.

In the OP's example the indefinite article is not needed, the statement is not about which job Jane Doe has, it's about something she said, so leave out the "a".

As nurse Jane Doe once said, "Nursing is a tremendously rewarding career."

If you want to express the fact that Jane Doe is no longer a nurse, then use the indefinite article as I just did earlier

When Jane Doe was a nurse, she once said, "Nursing…
When Jane Doe used to be a nurse, she…

If you want to express that Jane Doe is stating something after she left or retired from nursing you could say,

As a former/retired nurse, Jane Doe once said…

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It depends on your context. I may not be able to explain it in absolutely correct technical terms, but here goes..

As nurse Jane Doe once said: is used when conversing to a third person in relation with something that nurse Jane has said. For eg.,

As nurse Jane Doe once said,the hospital will function from 9AM to 5PM.

As a nurse Jane Doe once said:This is used when conversing to a third person about something which is related to the profession of the person. For eg.,

As a nurse, Jane Doe once said the attendants to maintain silence in the hospital.

  • We use "tell" for giving instructions, hence "Jane Doe told the attendants to be silent/quiet" – Mari-Lou A Apr 25 '18 at 11:10
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In addition to the earlier answers, may I only point out that saying "Nurse Jane Doe" (with N usually capitalized) or "accountant Thomas P" tends to have the effect of making the profession a sort of title and emphasises the identity of the person, who is often known to both speaker and listener:

I spoke to Nurse Joan and she says that hepatitis is dangerous.

They have arrested accountant Thomas P for assisting in tax fraud

whereas using the "a" before the profession makes the person's identity less central to the situation, and emphasises the profession itself, as in

the news anchor interviewed a nurse Maria Kutty from Kerala who said that immigration issues are still challenging for Indian workers in Europe.

The FBI is questioning an accountant Thomas P for allegedly assisting organized criminals in money laundering.

Here the profession is emphasised and the person's name is additional information (which can even be put in parantheses because it is not integral to the situation).

It is not typical in standard formal English to write the name of the person after "a nurse" or "an accountant" but this may be much more common in news reporting, informal writing or the spoken language. In formal writing, the solution is to write the name with a comma before "a + profession" or write the name after "a + profession + comma":

the news anchor interviewed Maria Kutty, a nurse from Kerala, who said that immigration issues are still challenging for Indian workers in Europe.

the news anchor interviewed a nurse, Maria Kutty from Kerala, who said that immigration issues are still challenging for Indian workers in Europe.

One situation where "a + profession + name" is actually used formally is when announcing or referring a person who is presumed to be not personally known to the listener:

I am referring a nurse Maria Kutty from India for your expert advice on immigration issues.

Sir, a nurse Maria Kutty is waiting to see you.

Note that if she is presumed known to the listener then it would be

Sir, Nurse Maria Kutty is waiting to see you.

  • The question was about the use of the article, so I focused my attention on that aspect, and ignored the issue of capitalization and whether one should address a nurse by their first or last name, or both. However, nowadays, nurses can be addressed by their first name but that's a separate issue, isn't it? – Mari-Lou A Apr 25 '18 at 11:21
  • Separate issue but interestingly some people prefer formal modes of address @Mari-Lou A. It doesn't really matter for nurses from India (and possibly other parts of Asia) because they are routinely addressed as Nurse/Sister + First Name or First Name + Sister in their home country. – English Student Apr 25 '18 at 11:24
  • (contd. @Mari-lou A) Men face a slight problem because the people here are still undecided whether to call them Nurse, Brother or nothing. – English Student Apr 25 '18 at 11:27

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