Till Health Do Us Part: Finding Your Medical Team
For those of us whose bodies are somehow impaired, there are few things that will impact our quality of life like the people who make up our care team. These decisions we make about who to entrust our bodies, our health, our very lives to are not to be made lightly.
And yet, in the beginning, I did. In the beginning, I went wherever someone told me to go without reading a review, saying a prayer, giving it a second thought. I was like a middle school girl who’d go out with any boy who asked. Like the girl who’d yet to have her heart broken and thought it was all fun and games, I didn’t yet understand that choosing a doctor was like choosing a spouse. Both are your partners in life, and, in this instance, your partner in sickness and hopefully in health. And once you’ve chosen poorly a time or two, you understand the importance of choosing well.
When I met my husband, I was desperately afraid of loving again because what if I chose poorly again? What if I made another mistake? I knew how bad things could be when you chose poorly. I knew how heartbreak and anguish felt. I wasn’t particularly interested in feeling them again. But there was no not loving Ryan. Only a fool would let fear keep them from such a man. And so, I took the leap.
And so it is with doctors. I have loved and lost, will I dare to love again? (My last doctor passed away a couple of months ago. I adored him.) When I met Dr. Lerner, I had endured some very unpleasant medical care and I was hesitant. But there was no not loving Dr. Lerner. He poured his heart out into his patients every single day and I’ll be forever grateful.
This week, I see a new specialist. It’s like a first date. I already have butterflies in my stomach and I don’t know what to wear. Will he be a jerk? Will I like him? Will he take good care of me?
Maybe, like me, you are searching for a new medical life partner. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that may aid you in your search:
Read the Reviews: These can be helpful far beyond just “this doctor was good or bad.” They can give you a feel for how they operate, their strengths and weaknesses, bedside manner, personality, training and background, how well they answer questions, what types of treatments they prefer, whether or not they are open to alternative therapies, etc. And, if, at the end of the day, 12 out 13 reviews say, “this doctor is a jerk with a terrible bedside manner” give strong caution to scheduling an appointment.
Listen: Almost universally, I have found that doctors don’t mind answering questions at the end of an appointment, but they really don’t like being interrupted. For this reason, I bring a list of my questions to each appointment, adding to it during the appointment as needed. If the appointment is running long, I save any questions that are not high priority for the next appointment or for nursing staff. When the doctor talks, I listen attentively. I find they appreciate this, especially as we initially get to know one another.
Be Cooperative: I have to admit that this part of my approach has changed over time. I now spend more time in my research and in those early appointments making sure that the doctor’s approach and mine are well aligned and that we have the same end goals. When my health journey started, I ended up with many doctors whose methodology I disagreed with. I shared this freely and often stated that I wasn’t going to follow their instructions. This will fast track you to the “most hated patients list.” Now, I’ve learned to just quietly seek care with like-minded healthcare professionals elsewhere. This is similar to smiling and telling your date you “had a lovely evening” at the end of the night. They don’t have to know that you just so happen to be an incredibly positive person who finds every day lovely and has no intention of spending more time with them.
In the end, it’s my belief that God orders our steps if we’ll just let him. So prayer is a crucial part of these life and death decisions for me. Whatever leads you to your next appointment, my fingers are crossed that you have some awesome first dates and who knows maybe they’ll even lead to something a little more serious.