If You Don't 'Click' With Your Doctor, You're Allowed to Find a Different One
The patient-doctor relationship is an important one in many of our lives, even more so when we have a disability or chronic illness, and that’s why it’s essential this relationship runs as cleanly and smoothly as it possibly can.
I have seen many different doctors, specialists and medical practitioners in different parts of the country. Sometimes, I have changed doctors simply because I needed one that was more local to where I was living, or because I needed one with a more specialized practice. Other times, I have made the switch because it just wasn’t working, and I know how important it is that it does work effectively.
You may have heard of the term “doctor shopping” used with a negative connotation, but I don’t think it has to be this way. Of course, I have no ambition to change practitioners more than I absolutely have to, or deal with records moving from one place to another unless it’s necessary, but sometimes it just is.
Think of it this way: if you were planning to book a holiday, chances are you would search and explore several airlines, hotels or even destinations before making your final decisions, just in case you found something great or landed on a better deal. If you were buying a wedding dress, you probably wouldn’t grab the first one you saw – you’d shop around and see if you could find something cheaper, a better fit or a little closer to what you’d imagined for yourself.
How is the medical industry any different?
When we go to our doctors, it is paramount we feel very comfortable because we’re likely going to have some difficult or awkward conversations with them. We might find out bad news from this person, or have to have an invasive exam. A good relationship with our doctor is important in minimizing how traumatic these things can be.
Not all people “click.” Sometimes, for no apparent reason, a friendship may just not work right, and that’s the same with our medical management. Some personalities are destined to just clash, and that’s not what we want when we are seeking health care and are at our most vulnerable.
Some patients feel guilty for changing doctors, but why? You have bodily autonomy. This is your body, and you have a right to feel confident enough to have a say over what happens to it. Moreover, this is your life, and you ought to have at least some power to control it.
Look for doctors and medical practitioners who don’t make you curl up inside at the thought of going in to see them, and who treat you with respect, not like something lesser than they are just because you are the patient in this relationship.
Search for doctors who either know about/have treated your condition(s) (difficult if you’re a bit rare like me!) or are willing to actively learn (they should want to, it’s expanding their business and repertoire anyway!).
Find a doctor who doesn’t make you feel silly for asking a question, who addresses your concerns and who offers all the genuine advice and help they can in regard to your issues. Look for someone who can view you as a whole person, not just a sum of illnesses, and who can appropriately prioritize your care accordingly (without favoring one condition they might understand better, that might be easier to manage or might be stigmatized less than something else you’re struggling with).
You have a right to request and expect not only adequate, but good health care. You have a right to feel confident walking into the consulting rooms (unless, of course, you’re having something really unpleasant and embarrassing done – I don’t think any of us much enjoy those regardless of who delivers the service). You have a right to be treated kindly and empathetically, to be listened to and acknowledged and not to leave the surgery feeling sadder, more miserable or with lower self-esteem than when you entered it.
This is self-care, and it’s important: grant yourself not the privilege but the right of medical care that suits you and is beneficial. If that means finding a new doctor, then perhaps now is time to start “shopping.”
If you’ve got any tips for finding a wonderful doctor, have a particularly amazing one you’d like to share with the rest of us or have just had a generally awesome doctor experience, please share them below (I’m sure we’d all love to know!).
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Thinkstock photo via megaflopp.