Finding a good doctor is never easy. Finding a doctor you can trust is even harder. And one that takes Medicare…difficult at best. That’s why after twenty years with the same doctor, I wasn’t looking forward to the search for another. But for the sake of my health, I had no choice; my doctor had already decided for me. Go somewhere else.
My doctor and I had been together for a long time. As I said, twenty years. These days, most marriages don’t last that long. He was a young man with a small family. One of his children had just been born when he began treating me. Over the years, he had listened to my complaints as well as stories about family, work, and daily problems. We shared tales about our dogs, and he sympathized with my tears as I lost two dogs during my time with him. I stayed with him when he ventured out in a new practice with another doctor and saw the practice grow from a few established patients to a successful and busy office with more doctors and services provided.
My daughter even came on board and began seeing him for treatment of her depression and asthma. Our doctor often arranged for our appointments to be scheduled back-to-back so as to save us time driving back and forth as my daughter is my caregiver and it made sense for us to been seen together. Our doctor always showed compassion and concern for our well-being. We knew many staff and nurses by name. We saw folks come and go, and technology infiltrate the office. But for the occasional hiccup when our prescriptions didn’t make it through to our pharmacist, we had minimal complaints.
That all changed during the past few years. Staff members we recognized were being replaced with unfamiliar faces at quite a clip. Where once, as established patients, we were worked into the schedule when needed, now we were told nothing was available “till next week sometime.” Our doctor’s nurse, whom we loved, left abruptly, and was replaced by a chatterbox who seemed more comfortable in sweats and raggy, bottomed pants than in fresh, starched uniforms. Her manner was sloppy and we felt she didn’t listen carefully. To make matters worse, those occasional problems with prescriptions not being called in after a considerable amount of days, began to occur more frequently. What was once a minor complaint, was now cause for concern. My complaints to my doctor, who seemed disturbed by this issue, now seemed to fall on deaf ears. I was fed up, but not ready to abandon my doctor whom I trusted for the past twenty years with my health.
The last straw happened over the Christmas holiday when my daughter noticed her medication for her depression was running low. Not wanting to be stuck without her medication during the stress of the holidays, she called our pharmacists’ automated prescription line as she knew no more refills remained of her medication and the doctor would have to call it in. That was on a Sunday night, the week before Christmas week. That Friday, she had heard nothing from the pharmacist. She decided to check if the medication was ready. Not only was it not ready, it had never been called in.
My daughter and I both had appointments for a follow-up two days after the new year began. We thought we should check into the problem.
“Oh, I called that in this morning,” the nurse said.
When my daughter questioned the delay, the nurse quipped, “I wasn’t here for six days, so I couldn’t check if it had been called in or not.”
My daughter asked why someone in the office had not checked the fax machine and give the request to the doctor, the nurse snapped back, “We don’t like to do faxes, we prefer the pharmacy do everything electronically.” My daughter was clearly getting angry at the feeble excuses and so was I. When our doctor came in, we expressed our disappointment. His response? “You know, this has happened before with you two. Maybe you would be happier going somewhere else. We are obviously not meeting your expectations here.”
My heart felt like it had fell into my stomach.
After twenty years of colds, infections, allergies, shots, even a move that placed us an hour away, and all the rest of our daily health concerns shared, I felt like I had been sent out the front door with a boot in my rear end! I cried on the long one hour trip home. “I feel like I have lost a son,” I told my daughter. “He was like family.”
My daughter was shocked too, and hurt. “Twenty years,” she said. “That’s a lot of our lives shared and cried about.”
She was thinking of her bouts with depression and anxiety. Her multiple surgeries for a colon tear that had gone misdiagnosed by other doctors. Her hysterectomy and recovery. The migraines that tormented her. I was thinking of my tremors he had diagnosed and attempted to treat with medications. My many frightened calls to his office when my heart was pounding out of my chest. The recent battles with my blood pressure jumping up and down like a pogo stick. All the times I cried in his exam room from sheer exhaustion and worry. Now, I was gutted, and felt lost and wandering around like a child.
I have shared this experience with others and their shocked expressions tell me all I need to know…we are better off going elsewhere.
When doctors begin defending bad practices over their patients, it’s time to go. I have scanned the internet for signs when it’s time to leave your doctor. Much of the advice reads the same. Poor staff. A doctor who doesn’t listen. Medication mistakes. Longer than usual wait times, ect. I would like to add one more…when your doctor tells you to leave!
There is no doubt our country has excellent doctors and more than qualified specialists with experience others would envy. Insurance pays little, but at least we have something. But when our doctors and staff use pitiful excuses for poor care of patients, we need to smarten them up! Am I wrong in believing patients should come first, not doctors and staff. Whatever happened to “first, do no harm?” If Hippocrates saw our patient care today, he would be appalled.
I have a nurse practitioner now, and concern for my care feels important. Concern for my well-being is shown. It has only been a few weeks, but we will see how it goes. I feel at bit sore from the sting left by my former doctor and it will take time to build trust, something doctors often take for granted when we place our health in their hands. My advice to anyone reading my blog now is simple…listen to your gut. If you feel like you and your doctor are not on the same page, chances are your are not even reading from the same book! Look elsewhere. Your health is number one, not their quotas and goals for the month. You are a human being with concerns and they need to be addressed. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated. There are plenty of other doctors “in network,” and a few moments to “shop-around,” could be a blessing. The nurse practioner found my ears were swollen, red, inflamed, scarred, and badly infected. Something I had been complaining about with the “old” doctor for years. Something he refered to as not significant. Now, I have been through two rounds of antibiotics, and referral to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise.
It can be a very difficult experience to go through; leaving your doctor. The thought of explaining your whole life health history over again with someone new, who may not work out, leaving you to start over again, is exhausting. Remember though, when it comes to your health, you come first! You are not going to hurt anyone’s feelings by leaving, no matter how long you have been with a physician. Our doctor certainly didn’t cry as we walked down the hall from his office, he didn’t even say goodbye.