How To Select A Doctor

There are many doctors out there giving all sorts of care. Some are great doctors but lousy human beings. Some are great human beings, but are lousy clinicians. Some have fabulous bedside manner, putting you at ease immediately, while others have the personality of a frog. You will have to see what your tolerance level is. The bottom line is to choose a doctor you feel comfortable with. There is NO reason to ever go to a doctor who makes you feel uncomfortable. Of course, depending on where you live and your health insurance coverage, there may only be a handful of care providers to choose from. You may have to forgo bedside manner for expertise.

If you don’t know which doctor to call: If you are new to an area or you’re a local who just doesn’t know the doctors in the community, call your local American Medical Association chapter or local hospital for referrals. Better yet, get referrals from people you meet.

Interviewing a doctor:

Feel free to make an appointment to interview a doctor. This is something health care consumers do all the time. You may have to pay for the visit, but it will be well worth the cost in the long run. This visit will give you the opportunity to interact with the doctor in a non-stressful, non-clinical setting. Come to the interview prepared with your questions written down. What hospitals does the doctor affiliate with? How many other doctors are in the practice? Are there any Nurse Practitioners or Physician Assistants in the practice that may provide care to you? What is the availability of night call? Does the doctor or the nurse return patient phone calls? When are those call backs done? Can you communicate with the doctor via fax or email? How long is the usual wait time in the waiting room? How long is the wait time for appointments? How much time does the doctor spend with the average patient? Observe how the doctor interacts with others in the office. Does the doctor talk respectfully to you and to others in the office? Is the doctor attentive to you during the interview? Are your questions answered respectfully and completely? If the doctor is a Pediatrician, observe how s/he interacts with other children.

Be sure the doctor you choose to go to is licensed by the state in which s/he is practicing medicine. You can check this licensure by contacting your state’s Medical Licensing board.

Many doctors become board certified in their field. While this certification is desireable, it it not always essential. Ask your doctor is s/he is board certified in his or her specialty. You can always research that credentialing board on line to see what that certification actually is.

How long should you expect to wait in the doctor’s office:

There are some geographical areas in the country (NYC and Southern Florida, in particular) that are notorious for long waits in doctors’ offices. If this is your reality, speak to your doctor about your concerns. Your time is as precious as anyone else’s. If you decide to tolerate this, you can call the office in advance on the day of your appointment and ask how far behind they are in seeing patients and how long the wait is. If you decide not to tolerate the wait, find another doctor. You have a choice!

In Charlotte, NC, doctors post signs in their waiting rooms that state: “If you have been waiting longer than 20 minutes, please let us know “. This is a fabulous thing for patients. These are caring, humanistic doctors who truly respect their patients… and their patients’ time. Make every effort to find a doctor like this in your own home town!

 

Anecdote:

My husband had been under the care of an Oncological Urologist (doctor specializing in cancer of the genito-urinary system) for a year, being treated with drugs to shrink his prostate and make urinating easier. Because the drugs did not decrease his PSA level (blood test to determine prostate cancer), the doctor determined that a prostate biopsy was necessary. It was scheduled for 2 weeks later and we were told that it was going to be performed by the Urologist’s Physician Assistant (PA). Of course, the first question I asked was how many biopsies this PA had performed. I was assured that he was expert in the procedure. My husband was rather anxious about the procedure and so I asked the PA if he could write a prescription for some Valium to be taken the morning of the biopsy. As a nurse, I knew that Valium would take the edge off his anxiety and help him relax. Patients are not routinely prescribed the Valium for this procedure. You have to ask for it. You have to use your voice to advocate for yourself! After the procedure, my husband admitted that with the help of the Valium the “bark of the procedure was far worse than the bite.” We got the biopsy results back 2 days later and were elated when we found out that my husband did not have cancer! When we returned to the doctor’s office the next week for a follow-up visit to discuss the findings, the PA was as thrilled as we were with the negative findings. When the doctor entered the room, he said hello and then proceeded to tell my husband that since there was no cancer, he might want to consider getting a “rotor rooter” of the prostate so that he wouldn’t have to take his prostate medication for the rest of his life. We were so taken aback that the doctor didn’t rejoice with us over the fact that my husband didn’t have cancer. There was no smile. No passion. No emotional response at all from this physician. When we left the office, I told my husband that since he didn’t have cancer and we didn’t need to see this doctor again for a full year, that it might be time to switch doctors. We like doctors who are warm and fuzzy. This doctor may be a great clinician, but he had a lousy bedside manner. There are lots of doctors out there who are warm and fuzzy…in addition to being a good clinician. Find them. There’s rarely a reason to use a doctor who doesn’t display any passion for your life.

” Do You Trust Doctors? ” – 3:08 minutes

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