How to pick the right doctor…

doctor pointing at tablet laptop
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Sometimes it’s hard to explain this to someone – especially when they are desperately in need of help but it’s you as the patient who gets to be choosy! For you to choose the right doctor you need guts to stand up for yourself.
One of my favorite doctors would say “Jenny, doctors may be experts in textbook cases and what they have experienced – but only you are the expert of you.” He went on to explain why it’s important to listen to the patient… so If I could choose the first criteria for the right doctor:
1. The doctor must listen to you – They must listen respectfully, and they must be more interested in your voice over hearing their “own expert voice”.
The right doctor realizes they don’t know everything and there may be things they have never encountered or understood. In fact, I was explaining in my last most recent checkup to my surgeon – that I have been told a lot of my symptoms (now explained) was all in my head by previous doctors. He cringed as he had proof and and offered to send them proof (ha ha) but then he said “Try not to be too hard on them Jenny, you have a very VERY unique case – most doctors wouldn’t know what to do with you.” My response… in which he seemed to agree with a nod was “Well, don’t tell me it’s in my head tell me you don’t know. A good doctor will not be so concerned about his ego that he/she that they would rather tell you it’s in your head than explain that all their many many years of training hasn’t prepared them for you. So my second criteria to look for:
2. A good doctor wont be afraid to tell you that they don’t know – This also goes for multiple times you might be misdiagnosed. It is so easy to diagnose someone that might fit “most” of the categories instead of thinking that maybe it’s something different. For years I was diagnosed with “ANA negative Lupus”. Then one day a doctor told me “don’t be silly – do your research! There is no such thing – they just told you that because they couldn’t figure out what you had”. This doctor didn’t stay with the clinic for long – but I liked that she gave me a bit of a kick in the right direction – and realizing that I had been misdiagnosed.
3. Don’t have a doctor who is always going to think worst case scenario – sure – it’s their job to THINK of the worst case scenario but if that’s the ONLY scenario they are telling you – you don’t want that. Run away. Your doctor needs to be aware of risks (if you are going through surgery etc..) but also stay positive in what good could come out of it. My surgeon kept telling me that the odds were not in my favor but he kept saying “if you can keep thinking about – if you get through this – that you will feel better than you have ever felt in your entire life, then that would be a good thing to focus on”. (Robin Roberts talks about this in her book link here and below)
AND MOST OF ALL – most favorite one is:
4. A good doctor wont tell you it’s all in your head. A good doctor actually gets distressed when they have patients who come in and tell them this is what they have been told. A good doctor will see your pain as valid. I had a horrific incident where I was having seizures and the doctor who saw me tried to tell me that I was under a lot of stress and that I just needed to see a psychologist. She then said I could walk to the CT room myself if I was determined to get one. I was so desperate to get some help I tried walking (they had separated my husband from me – in case it was a “case of abuse”) and with no help or even anyone watching me – I remember running into the wall and not able to see straight. DIS. GUS. TING. I wish I knew then what I know now, I would have told the doctor to shove it. You see when you are desperate – some (horrible narcissistic) doctors will see that as a sign that you have to do everything they say – YOU DO NOT. She could have told me to bark like a dog and I probably would have done it – and that is a serious abuse of power. I kept asking people for her name (after I got better and had energy to fight for myself) as I was going to write a complaint – but all I got told was that she was a doctor in training etc etc and she was no longer here at the hospital.  I shudder to think that there are doctors out there lose in the world out there treating patients like that. The only thing that saved me that day was a man who was working with her, he bent down and whispered in my ear “get help somewhere else”. He was afraid to stand up to her – he could lose his job but he had this look of absolute pain of seeing the way I was treated and helped me realize I had a choice. Doctors like that should be locked up. ANYONE – including animals – deserve better than that treatment. I saw a similar doctor in a different hospital – who quite literally treated the woman in the bed next to me horribly. The woman next to me was suffering a miscarriage (and it obviously wasn’t her first by what the doctor said next). The female doctor came in and said to the patient “Do you get this emotional with all your miscarriages or is it just this one?” Don’t get me started….

The other problem is – there is sexism – as a woman you are several times more likely to be told it’s in your head, also, doctors are willing to downplay your symptoms more especially if it’s related to the female illnesses. Science has proven this bias (although it is improving) – but please…. Please know that you deserve to fight for yourself and only you are the expert of you. YOU have a choice.

Want to read more about someone who had to be choosy with her doctors? I love Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts.

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