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6 Signs It's Time to Ditch Your Doctor

By Maya Brown-Zimmerman

waiting room

As patients with chronic illness, we’re well-accustomed to going to the doctor. Many of us have had great medical teams, but I know we’ve all had the experience of seeing a medical professional and leaving upset. Obviously, communication is a two-way street and we need to do our part as patients, as well as have reasonable expectations for our providers. Sometimes though, it becomes necessary to fire a doctor and move on.

Here are some hints it might be time to change doctors:

1)  Your doctor is unapologetic about a mistake. Doctors are humans and therefore mistakes are going to happen. If your doctor seems distressed about the error and changes how they operate to guard against another mistake, great! But if your doctor can’t understand why you’re upset, downplays the error or your feelings, and doesn’t make any relevant changes, it may be time to give them the pink slip.

2)  Your doctor routinely keeps you waiting past your appointment time and you don’t get your fair share of time. I have a couple of doctors who I know will run late, because they give their undivided attention to every patient. I’m ok waiting an hour, because I know I won’t be rushed when it’s my turn. But if your doctor is keeping you waiting without reason, that shows a lack of respect for your time.

3)  Your doctor can’t seem to remember basic facts about your treatment. Doctors have a lot of patients, so of course they aren’t going to remember every detail about your life. But if it’s been a few months and your doctor is still asking why you take beta blockers, or suggests cutting out dairy every appointment, when they’re the ones who discovered your child had a dairy intolerance in the first place, well, Houston, we have a problem.

4)  Your doctor is inaccessible after hours. I get that doctors don’t typically get paid for talking on the phone, but if it’s urgent, there should be a mechanism for getting help. I had an instance where we were about to go out of town and I had a question about my son’s medication. I was told my doctor’s policy was that questions about medication were only answered in-office: period. Now how to get help after hours is a question I ask when interviewing potential doctors.

5)  Your doctor is not knowledgeable about your condition and unwilling to learn. I have Marfan syndrome, a rare connective tissue disorder. I don’t expect every doctor I come in contact with to be an expert, or even to know what it is. But, if we’re going to be partners in keeping me healthy they have got to be willing to learn: from me, experts in the field, and from our national foundation.

6)  Your doctor is dismissive of your concerns. If you have a question, you deserve to have it answered honestly. You know your body the best, and medical professionals should respect that. For example, a friend of mine ran into trouble when a doctor insisted on ordering a drug she’d reported caused her to stop breathing because the doctor didn’t believe that was a possible side effect. Whether it’s over a major issue like that, or something less serious, mutual respect is an important aspect of the patient-caregiver relationship.

Are there things I’ve missed? Have you ever fired a doctor?

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