Tracy Lee Karner
The Way I Was

Choosing a doctor: visit the shop

Tracy Lee Karner
Shorts and t-shirt are appropriate attire for eating hot-dogs; but probably not the best choice for my first visit with a new doctor.

When I shop for a doctor, I dress for the occasion–it’s a job interview. I’m the interviewer, and I want the interviewee to want the job. I’m offering an opportunity to be my personal health care consultant. (This is part 2 of a 3-part blog on choosing a doctor. You can read part one by clicking on this link.)

I dress professionally, because I don’t want my doctor to see me as a sick person who can’t pull herself together enough to dress appropriately for a professional meeting. I want her to see me as the put-together, competent woman I am. I also want her to remember me, because if she doesn’t remember me from one visit to the next, she’ll never get the overall picture of who I am and she won’t be able to help me manage my health care.

My goal for this meeting? To find out whether this is the kind of person I could have a long-term friendship with, and if it is, then to convince this person that he or she would also like to have a long-term friendship with me.

My first encounter is with the nurse. If the nurse is rude or bossy or talks to me like I’m a five-year-old, I’m not going to be hiring this doctor–but, of course, I won’t say so. I’ll just answer their questions, and then after the visit is over they’ll never see me again.

The nurse is the person who reviews (and often entirely handles) all the phone messages. If she doesn’t treat me respectfully, I’m going to be unhappy in this practice.

If  the nurse lets me  know that we all must bow down to the doctor because he’s more important than anyone else, I am certain this isn’t the doctor for me. I want a human doctor.

But let’s assume the nurse makes me comfortable and I like her just fine (which is almost always the case). Now I’ll consider how I feel about this doctor.

When the doctor comes into the examining room and introduces himself, he or she had better look me in the eye and be personal and make me feel as if I matter.

If the doctor succeeds in making me believe that I have been recognized as a person (and not just a chart), I find some way to communicate why I’m here, which is:

“I got a very good impression about you from the way your receptionist and nurses responded to my questions, so I’m here to see whether we will fit well with each other in an ongoing primary health care relationship.”

Of course, if the doctor has blown it by staring at my chart and not looking at me, I don’t waste my time. I just get through it as quickly as possible and never come back. But, let’s assume the doctor recognized that I’m a person, not a corpse or a car engine.

The doctor will usually lead at this point. I let him/her lead. She/He asks me questions. I’ve come prepared to answer everything. I have a written list of my medications; dates of procedures I’ve had, date of my last physicals and lab tests, last immunizations. So, I answer the questions. Next I’ll interview the doctor–but that’s next week’s post. For now, let me ask you…

How do you know that a doctor has really seen you–a unique person, and hasn’t just seen one more “patient” passing through on a conveyer belt?

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