Tracy Lee Karner
The Way I Was

Choosing a doctor: inspect the merchandise

Tracy Lee Karner
You squeeze the bread and make sure the eggs aren’t cracked. Doesn’t choosing a primary health-care provider require at least that much consideration?

So, the doctor and I are chatting in the doctor’s office. I’m here to check him or her out–to inspect the practice, to find out whether I’m comfortable with the way this doctor treats patients.

(This is Part 3 of my series on “shopping for a doctor.” If you’re looking for part 1, click here. For part 2, click here.)

I ask how much experience the doctor has with fibromyalgia (and any other conditions or specific questions I have) and how he prefers to treat it. The doctor had better know at least as much as I know. The doctor had better ask me something about what has and has not worked for me (which indicates the doctor’s knowledge of the fact that I’m the one who manages my health).

I’ve written down my concerns–so I don’t forget to mention them in the flurry of being asked a lot of question by the doc. I answer all the doctors questions. I notice whether or not the doctor asks me questions about my work, hobbies, relationships that help her understand who I am as a person . This shows that the doctor sees me as more than just as a bundle of skin, bones, organs and cells.When he/she has finished interviewing me, I ask the doctor, “So, what do you do in your free time?”

This is an indirect way of asking, “Are you interesting and intelligent? Are you a problem solver? Are you compassionate?” By listening to this person talk about her/himself for 60 or 120 seconds (or by seeing that s/he refuses to talk about life outside of work), I learn quite a bit about what kind of person I’m sitting across from, and something about how this person thinks.

I’m trying to figure out whether this doctor is practicing medicine because s/he was born to be a caregiver, or whether the prestige and power of being a doctor was the primary attraction.

I can tell whether a person is a born caregiver fairly quickly. I can also tell whether people are impressed by themselves.

Well, probably I can’t. My first impressions could likely be totally wrong.

But my rightness or wrongness doesn’t matter. I’m not filming a documentary or writing a journalistic article. I’m trying to find a primary healthcare provider, for me.

My relationship with my primary care giver is similar to a love relationship in this way: it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, or what the whole truth and nothing but the truth is. If I’m not totally convinced in my own mind this is the doc for me, this is not going to work for me. And because this relationship centers on one thing–my health, it is all about me and my opinion.

If I’m happy, we’re on the road toward a fabulous friendship.

Let’s say my body is like a football team. that makes me the owner. I make the big decisions (hiring and firing the coach). But I am also the whole team–the players. I implement the game plan. Winning or losing hinges on how well I perform–how well or badly I eat, rest, nurture my body. But I’m depending on my doctor’s skill and knowledge of the game.

Now please, share your wisdom. What do you look for in a doctor, and how do you find a good one?

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