Breaking Up With Your Doctor

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I went to my general practitioner for a walk-in appointment. As I sat there, I swear I almost didn’t make it. I kept thinking about all of the colds and infections I was going to catch from the 25 other people in the waiting room. When the old man sat next to me with his “tuberculosis cough,” I thought about dousing him in hand sanitizer. Instead, I figured that it was a great time to practice seeing how long I could hold my breath.

Two hours and five minutes later, my name was called. I had my blood pressure and temperature taken and then waited 20 more minutes to see the Doctor. She opened the door, sat down, and started writing me a prescription for refills. “I’m not here for refills,” I politely said. She asked me what my name was and realized that she had the wrong chart. Ten minutes later she walked back in, asked me why I was there, diagnosed me, and walked out, all within 2.5 minutes. I was told that I had a life-threatening condition and that I should head to the emergency as soon as I could. And then she was gone.

Ten years ago, I would have freaked out and driven to the emergency room.  Two thousand dollars later, I would have figured out that she was wrong. But that is quite the opposite of what I did. I got in my car and immediately texted three of my friends for the name of their primary care physician. I knew with all of my heart, that I did not have what she described, nor did I have any of the symptoms associated with it.  At that very moment, I decided to sever ties with my doctor. I realized that I was in an unhealthy relationship with my medical provider.

The next day, I went to my appointment with a new doctor. When my name was called, the nurse spent fifteen minutes talking to me. The doctor then walked in and spoke with me for an entire hour. She asked me questions, went through my personal and family medical history, and listened to everything I said. I was in love. More importantly, I did not have a life-threatening condition that required a trip to the emergency room.

That experience made me realize that a healthy relationship with a doctor is very similar to what I look for in a healthy intimate relationship:

Feeling that I am heard.  

The doctor asked me tons of questions, waited for me to finish answering them, and asked follow-up questions.

Feeling that I am a priority.

I spent an entire hour with her without feeling rushed. She didn’t have body language that made me feel that she was in a hurry to see other patients. She made sure every concern was met before she left. 

Feeling that I am valued.

The doctor listened to my opinions and my personal experience. She understood that everyone may have symptoms that appear differently and that medications may work differently.

Humility in place of arrogance.

Looking for answers, I already had an appointment with a specialist scheduled. She encouraged me to keep that appointment and said, “Your tests may come back normal, and that is fine.” Then she said one very important thing, “This is my opinion. I could be wrong and I have been wrong before, but if your tests are normal, this is what I think our next step should be.” I was hooked. She was open to second opinions and admitted that she had been wrong in the past. My doctor also listened to my thoughts. She trusted that I knew my own body, what was normal, and what was abnormal.

A partner who is open to personal growth and learning.

A great doctor researches symptoms, looks for multiple causes, and constantly seeks new answers. During my visit, my doctor looked at me and said, “I’ll be right back. Let me check one thing.” She came back with a medical book. It showed me that she was thorough, open to learning, and didn’t automatically believe that she knew everything about medicine.

I left the office feeling happy, valued, and reasurred that I had made the right choice to sever the relationship with a doctor who did not value me as a whole person. I trusted my instincts and was able to recognize when I was in a relationship with a doctor who was too busy to provide me with the care that I needed and demanded.

Sometimes a relationship, whether intimate or with your doctor, is about knowing when to walk away when things become unhealthy. Find someone who is truly concerned about your well-being and don't look back.