When you have a chronic illness or chronic pain, it is crucial to have a competent doctor who you trust to manage your care. Many of us have been in a doctor-patient relationship that just wasn’t working out. But sometimes knowing when to call it quits can be difficult. It means starting over which can be scary. It may be easier and more comfortable to stay in that unsatisfying doctor-patient relationship for the time being. But is that really what’s best for your health? Here are 10 signs that it may be time to break up with your doctor:
1. He/she doesn’t seem knowledgeable about your illness or pain. Just because they are doctors, that doesn’t mean they know everything about every condition. If your doctor doesn’t seem to have enough knowledge about your illness, find someone who does. Finding a doctor who is an expert in your particular illness can mean faster progress in finding the right medications and therapies that will work for you.
2. He/she doesn’t answer all your questions. You are not supposed to be the expert in your condition, your doctor is. It is their obligation to answer all of your questions so you have all the information you need in order to make the right decision about which options for your treatment work best for you.
3. You can’t get an appointment in a reasonable amount of time. Sure doctors are busy. But that doesn’t mean you should have to wait a month for an appointment, especially if you are not feeling well and need to be seen soon.
4. He/she doesn’t hear what you are saying. You know your body better than anyone and you know the symptoms you are experiencing. You know if you are or are not feeling better on a medication. You know if physical therapy is or isn’t working. It is your doctors’ responsibility to listen and discuss your treatment with you and if something isn’t working, to discuss alternatives.
5. Your condition is not improving. Many conditions require trial and error in treatment. If you are not improving on one medication, it may be time to try another. If your doctor doesn’t agree with this, look for someone who does.
6. He/she spends more time writing notes than looking at you. Having a doctor who shows he or she cares about what you are dealing with is so important. A good doctor sits, makes eye contact, asks questions, and listens to your answers to work out a diagnosis and treatment plan.
7. You don’t trust him/her. When you have chronic pain or a chronic illness it’s crucial to have a competent doctor in charge of your care. If you don’t trust your doctor, your instincts are probably correct and it is time to find someone you do trust.
8. He/she doesn’t explain his/her treatment plan. Treatment is not one-size-fits-all, especially when dealing with chronic pain and chronic illness. These are often complex problems and what works for one person may not work for another. Treatment options may be confusing and require choices from you that entail thinking about what would be best for you at that time in your life. Therefore, you as the patient must be informed about possible treatment options and your doctors plan for the immediate future as well as possible long-term options so you can make an informed decision.
9. You can’t reach him/her outside normal business hours. What happens if you have a question that is emergent but not so serious that you want to go to the emergency room? Most great doctors will have an after-hours doctor on staff or a way to be paged if needed. If this is something you feel you may need and your doctor doesn’t offer this, it may be time to find someone else.
10. Your doctor or the staff does not return phone calls. There’s no excuse for not receiving a call back from your doctor or their staff within a timely manner unless you have told them it can wait. They should call you back because it’s the right thing to do, especially if you are experiencing symptoms or have a question that requires a timely response.