When you start to feel less than well, your traditional reaction is to call your doctor. For some, this can be hard. Taking that first step in reaching out for help can sometimes seem both daunting and scary, but I promise that once you push through these feelings, this process will start to get easier.
Because I was very young when I first visited a doctor’s office for my symptoms, my journey started much earlier than most. I first met with my pediatrician and then quickly moved to a specialized team of pediatric gastroenterologists. However, for most, this journey doesn’t start in this way and usually involves visiting an adult primary care physician (PCP) or a specialized gastroenterologist.
When I was young, I remember having an outstanding relationship with my care team. The doctors and nurses always went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and would spend as much time with me as I needed. Not only that, but they always seemed aware of my symptoms and how we were treating them before they entered my treatment room. I didn’t have to remind them of who I was, what and how we were treating, or where we left off with my care at my last visit. They truly seemed invested in how I was feeling and showed that they cared in numerous ways.
Once I turned 18, this doctor-patient relationship seemed to fluctuate a bit. Now that I was considered a legal adult, I could no longer see my pediatrician or the pediatric gastroenterologist I’d been seeing for the past 10 years. Instead, I had to find an adult specialist who could help me manage my symptoms much like my pediatric doctors had.
Unfortunately, this developed into a harder task than I realized. Because my experiences as a young child and teen seemed so positive, I didn’t realize that for others, this wasn’t the norm. For some reason, finding a doctor or specialist that I connected with was much harder as an adult than I thought it should be.
Since that time, I’ve experienced both the positive and negative sides of the doctor-patient relationship. I’ve had some that seemed like a waste of my time and others who made lasting differences. I’ve had some that questioned my diagnosis, made me feel like my symptoms were all “in my head,” and spent less than 5 minutes in the room with me after I waited on them for 2 hours.
However, I’ve also had others who knew me by name, shared my case with their pre-med students, and consistently looked into new research and treatments being developed because they knew my case didn’t fall within the norm.
Through these experiences, here is what I learned:
- There’s nothing wrong with visiting different doctors, clinics, and specialists until you find one that connects with you.
- Regardless of how many college degrees anyone has, you still know what’s best for your body. Please don’t allow anyone to bully you into trying a treatment, medication, etc., that you’re uncomfortable with.
- Always do your own research and go into any appointment with ideas and questions related to the treatment of your disease.
- Know that not all symptoms or diseases show in the same ways. You are unique and your case should be treated as such.
- There are many different treatment options available for your disease. Please know that there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to being involved in your own treatment choices.
- You are your own best advocate. Please don’t ever give up fighting for better answers or better care.
Regardless of what your experiences in doctor-patient relationships have been, please never give up looking for that connection -- that positive experience -- that we’re all seeking. You can have a great relationship with the right doctor as long as you’re willing to find it.
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