Till Health Do Us Part: Finding Your Medical Team

December 6, 2015 | Posted in: Caregivers, chronic illness; support, Physicians

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.

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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.35821_440581881807_4533345_n

 

 

 

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8 Comments

  1. Melanie Pickett
    December 7, 2015

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    Oh boy, do I know the importance of having a really GOOD physician! Three years ago we moved to a new area where I knew absolutely no one in the medical community. Previously, I’d lived in the same town my whole life up until then and I worked in the medical field for nearly two decades so I had a solid foundation in the community and as well, knew every nuance of the field and reputations of the docs in that community and in the ones even an hour away. God really was on my side (when isn’t He? 😉 ) and when I got a referral to a GI doc here for my Crohn’s, He matched me perfectly with Dr. Barber. He listens to me, respects me, acknowledges that I know my body better than anyone and validates my concerns. We have frank and compassionate conversations and he has genuine concern for ME. I have his cell phone number which I use very sparingly but know that I can use it if necessary. He and his team are so important to my health. I agree–research, ask people for recommendations, and be vocal. You have to be your own best advocate.

  2. Susan Gaddis
    December 7, 2015

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    Well said, well presented, and a post I look forward to recommending to my counseling clients who also struggle with long term or unknown illnesses. So many feel “stuck” with their doctor and don’t have the energy to look elsewhere, so giving your post to their spouse or adult children (if they have one) is on my agenda too. I watched my sister struggle with my dad’s health care providers as some of them really didn’t care about dad. He was old and the attitude they gave off was one of not caring about him. Thanks for the helpful advice.

  3. Jennie Goutet
    December 7, 2015

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    This was a good analogy. Fortunately I haven’t needed too much intensive long care treatment. The depression is pretty easy to treat with medicine and the coeliac disease with following a GF diet. But in the few experiences I have had, I can tell how important this is.

    May God bring you health and energy (and good doctors)!

  4. Brianna
    December 8, 2015

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    So how was your date…err appointment? Was he nice? What kind of car did he drive…err I mean how was his bedside manner?

    🙂

  5. Stacey Philpot
    December 8, 2015

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    I love to hear this, Melanie. Because so many times, this isn’t the case. Doctors don’t even give you their attention when you are in the room with them, much less their cell phone numbers. And there are few things as scary as starting back at the beginning with a new doctor. Love that you are being loved well!

  6. Stacey Philpot
    December 8, 2015

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    Susan, thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately, this is so often the case. I’ve had medical care so bad, I thought I’d never trust another doctor again. But I think in some ways it was an important lesson for me to see that doctors are just people, and some do their jobs well and some do not, just like any industry.

  7. Stacey Philpot
    December 8, 2015

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    Thank you, Jennie!

  8. Stacey Philpot
    December 9, 2015

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    Brianna,
    I liked him. It was a good first date. We’ll see where things go. 🙂

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