When To Ditch Your Doctor Karen Belz

A few months ago, I went to my doctor’s office to refill a prescription – and post-normal questioning and pre-prescription giving, my doctor asked me a straightforward question. “Have you ever been tested for Marfan Sydrome?” I didn’t really know what Marfan Syndrome was, but I hadn’t been. She told me that Marfan carriers were unusually tall, with long limbs. Pretty much what Abe Lincoln had.

Despite my Dad being 6’3″ and my sister being of equal height as me (5’10″), I still let this question plague me for a solid six months. She mentioned it so casually, like she was asking if I read the latest US Weekly. Being a big fan of self-diagnosis on WebMD, I tried so hard to find reasons to believe that I was genetically impaired, despite the fact that throughout my life – from birth till 27 years – nobody had ever mentioned anything of it prior to. It bothered me.  It wasn’t what I came in for, and while I feel as if doctors should know best, suddenly I was filled with paranoia based on a sole, 2-second long comment. Just because I was of above-average height.

Just recently, I went to the same office for a step test, as I felt like every intake of water was an equivalent intake of knives and other stabby objects.

Since this was an immediate concern, I saw a different doctor, who made me feel extremely guilty for not being on the pill (there are other options!), being a smoker (I know it’s not a smart choice, but I made it, and I’ll work on it!) and started discussing religion with me as the strep test developed. Even worse, I realized that I didn’t have strep two minutes before my doctor announced it in person, as I heard a nurse say “STREP IS NEGATIVE” in the hallway, with the door closed.

All of this being said, I realized that I need to switch doctors. My last two experiences lead to two very awkward encounters and made me realize that I shouldn’t go to a doctor solely based on proximity to my apartment.

Here are some tips if you’re on the fence about your own doctor:

1: You Should Always Feel Comfortable With Your Doctor: This seems too easy to be a tip, but – let’s face it. If your doctor makes you feel uncomfortable, switch it up. Your doctor is someone you need to be 100% honest with, for your own good. The main role of a doctor is to make sure you feel better. So if you can’t tell him/her about a weird problem “down there”, or be honest about your diet, either fess up or ditch them.

Ladies, you should definitely see a gynecologist if you’re over 18. And if you’re uncomfortable, seek reviews online or ask some close friends. It shouldn’t be embarrassing to be safe. This is one doctor that will always be awkward the first time/possibly other times afterward. Trust me: They do what you come in for on a daily basis. The worst thing you can imagine having? They’ve seen even worse.

2: You Should Never Have Questions Post-Visit: So… I have a “throat virus”? It bummed me out to not know what I was diagnosed with and have my doctor be so amped to give me as little information as possible. If your diagnosis is tougher to swallow, your doctor should be prepped to give you the (possibly bad) news, as well as all the information you need.

3. Your Doctor Should Be Easy To Contact: Granted, I’m not in the medical field – but I know how many places certain doctors need to be at certain times. Search for a doctor’s office that fits your hours – a bunch of them offer hours past 5 PM, so you can make an appointment during your lunch break and hit up the office after work.

Sidenote: My fiance was trying to fill a prescription with his doctor and the office delayed his appointment four times, since his doctor also delivered babies. While that’s a totally reasonable excuse, it’s also somewhat annoying to the patients that aren’t giving birth and he was about a week off of his medication. Get to know your doctor and what they do. That way, you can plan ahead of time for these delays or know who to ask for in the practice if your minor emergency keeps getting pushed back for major emergencies.

4. Feel Free To Be Self-Centered: I’m such a people-person. It’s tough for me to ever truly, 100% focus on myself. But at your doctor’s office, you kind of need to. After all,the spotlight is on you. While you might make subtle chit-chat with the doctor, you’re there because something is wrong with you. Tell them everything. Did your ears feel weird the other day?  Has breathing been heavier recently? While you might feel weird sharing every minor detail, those details could lead to a different prognosis – so let them all out!

In general, your doctor visit shouldn’t make you question or feel awkward. A doctor should be able to relate, inform and guide you through the issue you might have. If you dread visits, or had an awkward encounter, consider looking around; other doctors in your vicinity might be your ideal match.

Tired surgeon image via ShutterStock

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  1. I’m not so much annoyed with my doctor (I just moved last year, so I’ve only seen her once and about to go again in another month – I loved her the one time) as I am with my doctor’s office. Reception can’t answer ANY of my questions not regarding appointments, even though most of my questions were regarding insurance. Yet every time I called, they said a nurse would have to call me back. What the heck? Then they inevitably call me when I can’t answer the phone yet aren’t in the office when I call back (and I always call back well before 5pm). I hate to give up my doctor – the main person who matters who I really like – but my doctor’s office staff really bothers me!

    • Let her know. Worst case scenario, maybe you’ve dealt with new hires learning the ropes. But it doesn’t hurt to voice your opinion that you like her, but the process is kind of a struggle. That way, she won’t take offense, but might take the initiative to tell someone who manages the office that things might not be as smooth as they think. I think every office admires customer input that’s intellectually stated, as yours is.

  2. I absolutely and totally agree with all the points you made and I feel very relieved to know that someone else other than me feels this way. Ive lost count of the amount of times that I have gone in and some of the first things he talks about before I get a word in is about my weight or my acne (it just so happens that everytime I go to see him I’ve got a breakout or two). I remember once asking him for a referral to a gyno and his response being ‘why’ like what do you mean why. Other times when I’ve had a direct reason for going in like pain or something ubnormal (for example I’ve had a lot of freckles showing up on my skin – I am whiter than white – after a recent trip to the Dominican , I was worried. His response – it’s normal. Like how do you even now? You didn’t even look at my skin or the marks/freckles. Totally time for a new doctor!!

    • Yay you! Switch it up! You should never question your doctor. If you notice something weird, make sure it’s the main point of your visit. A good doctor won’t shrug you off immediately.

  3. Orr try a Nurse Practitioner! I’ve had the same primary care nurse practitioner for years and she’s great. Everyone should know that when it comes to health care providers, doctors are not the only answer!

  4. As much as I fully agree with your advice here, I’m in Ontario, Canada, where family doctors are at a shortage. I just found a family doctor after not having one for two years. Finding another doctor is not always an option, unfortunately.

  5. ladies, don’t be afraid to visit a male gynecologist! my doctor is male—and absolutely wonderful. I found him through a coworker, so I knew a bit about his manner & that he accepted my insurance before I even made the appointment. I feel totally comfortable with him, and the fact that he’s very straightforward and respectful with me helps. (he frequently mentions his 3 adult daughters, which I’m sure influences his bedside manner.) bottom line is, make sure that your doctor is respectful of you and your wishes, and that you feel comfortable with them—regardless of their gender.

  6. Oh one more thing about female doctors and gynecology – I’ve actually found that men are more gentle than females. Or maybe specialists. The men I’ve seen were specialists in gynecology and not baby deliverers who do pap smears on the side. Last exam by a woman (who was not a specialist) was SO PAINFUL and she looked at me like why couldn’t I handle it? Well maybe the endometriosis, lady!

  7. It’s hard to find the right doctor. Where your doctor was overzealous, mine won’t take me seriously – despite my history of cancer and endometriosis. I had shoulder tendonitis after a bout with hypothyroidism (a complication of my cancer) and she laughed at the suggestion that tendonitis can be caused by hypothyroidism – even though it can.

    Before her, I saw a doctor who was a prescription pusher.

    I think it’s hard for doctors b/c of lawsuits and having to see a ton of patients everyday. But yeah I’m going to be “selfish” enough to find the one who can cut through the crap and still be a good doctor.

    • Yes! It was shocking to me how easy it was to get a prescription! I’m sorry to hear about your health history, Nathania. You know the most about what’s going on with your body, and it’s a shame she wouldn’t take you seriously.

  8. THIS.

    Also, don’t think your doctor will be offended if you leave. I’ve worked in lots of doctors offices, and they all understand that it has to be beneficial for you, and that you have to do what’s best.

  9. Not only does this work with doctors but also with dentists (and probably any other medical profession out there). My last dentist was the exact opposite of a people person – very cold. I had never really liked him but had been going to the same office since I was little. At my last visit he told me I had three cavities and needed to set up an appointment and payment plan when I went out. Now, granted, I had not gone to the dentist in a few years (senior year and college, you get busy) but I had also never had a cavity in my life and hadn’t been experiencing any pain. Well, I never went back and also never started to feel any pain – even over a year later. When I went back home this last break, I went to a new and different dentist/office. Prognosis? No cavities whatsoever and he even showed me the xrays and explained to me what they look for when they are looking for cavities – something my old dentist refused to do. My new dentist also told me that he was pretty sure that my old one had gone out of business. Ha. Shocker there, right? Love it.

    Something else – I would suggest going to a female doctor, even if only for your gyno visits – let’s just say, since they experience everything else that you do, they are usually the only ones who use the smaller tools and other amenities that make the experience much less awkward/uncomfortable.

    • cavities don’t usually hurt. by the time it starts hurting, you usually need a root canal. i work for a dentist and the last patient who came in with an emergency had to have her tooth extracted because she let a cavity go for 3years after we told her about it and it got so bad, her tooth broke. that being said, that dentist definitely sucked. and second opinions are always a good idea. glad your teeth were okay!

    • So glad you found a new dentist! Since so many people have a fear of dentists, being cold is such a bad trait to have. I kind of love how people in a dental office try to hold conversations with you when your mouth is open and being examined. (Even weirder is how they seem to understand what you’re saying.)

      Also agree with the female gyno suggestion. I feel more comfortable with a female, but – I’ve never gone to a male, so wouldn’t be able to compare experiences.

  10. 100% Agree!!! There is no “casual testing” for Marfan’s Syndrome, and I can’t understand why ANYONE would just casually bring it up in the absence of specific concerns. I mean, you read about it after she scared you- The main presentation is not just “being tall”! I am so confused. Also, it was so unprofessional for them to discuss test results in the hallway, even if it was “just strep”. I am so sorry for your lousy experience!

    I couldn’t agree more about the importance of being comfortable- You need to be able to be completely honest and open about everything with your doctor to help them help you.

    Oh, and no one should be shamed about smoking. It’s an addiction that is tremendously difficult to struggle with. Doctors need to move beyond preaching how it is bad for you- we all know that. The emphasis should be on helping you to quit when you are ready, in a supportive way.

    • Thanks, Lucy & Alexandra! There’s definitely a huge risk with the pill and smoking. Commercials gloss over it a bit, but I heard the message loud and clear. I was prescribed one, but that – plus the horrific reviews – made me a little terrified. You’re right. It’s terrible to feel guilty at the doctor. In fact, I think both my Dad and I (he also smokes) try to avoid going to the doctor unless it’s absolutely necessary, solely because the smoking lectures get out of control.

      This last doctor emphasized – in a pretty judgmental tone – about how my throat virus would take ten days to heal instead of five, based on smoking. He made me feel like I was ten years old. I wish I didn’t start, but I did – and I’m of legal age.

    • I agree with this. especially the need for an emphasis on helping to provide tools and encouragement rather than shame. Also, it actually increases your risk of blood clots if you take the pill and are smoking (read the fine print), so to make you feel guilty about not being on the pill is kind of ridiculous, if the doctor isn’t suggesting ways to deal with the smoking first. I had a doctor tell me the same thing once: “yeah you need to stop smoking and start the pill”. Oh yeah okay, I’ll do that this weekend, no prob, maybe I’ll learn how to play the cello and sing Opera while I’m at it. Seriously?

  11. This is solid advice.

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