Managing the relationship with your current doctor

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What do you do when you’re not sure your current doctor is up to the task of handling your endometriosis? 

What do you do when there’s only one doctor in your town and you can’t afford to make them an enemy?

What do you do when you need a referral to a specialist, and your doctor isn’t happy about it?

What do you do?

Here are some suggestions.

  • Try to think long term. You may be irritated at your doctor right now, but you will need someone to follow you medically. If your current doctor is going to be that person, you need to navigate a way to keep the relationship cordial. Telling someone they’re an idiot is not generally helpful, no matter how strong the urge is. Consider: you may have facts on your side from Nancy’s Nook, but the patient your doctor saw before you was full of unscientific theories and nonsense. Your doctor may be suspicious when you come in with lots of details you learned from the Internet. That’s not a bad position for them to take, because they’re trying to protect you from incorrect information. You want to educate your physician, but not alienate them. So be open. Share what you’ve learned but remember that they went to medical school and may be wary. 
  • Be respectful. Hopefully you can have a real conversation with your healthcare team. Ask questions, and listen, really listen, to the answers. Is your doctor willing to consider alternative ideas? Or do they already have all the answers? You are hiring them, so you get to decide if you want to keep them as part of your healthcare team. Knowing you can walk away is powerful.
  • Try to keep your doctor on your side. Ask for their help. Tell them, “I am grateful for all you have done for me so far. I hope you will support me in the next steps. Can I rely on you to help me?”
  • Try to stay calm and relaxed if you are challenged. Don’t get defensive. Imagine that your doctor is trying to protect you against future harm. Tell them, “I appreciate your concern for me, but I have been doing a lot of learning and I have some questions. Can you help me figure out where to go from here?”
  • If you seek surgery elsewhere and you decide not to return to your current physician, send a copy of the operative and pathology reports with a very brief note that says “Thank you for having me as your patient. I thought you’d be interested in the outcomes from my surgery. Thanks again for your help.” Keep it brief and keep it pleasant. The goal is to educate, not to claim victory.
  • If your doctor threatens to dismiss you as a patient, or actually does, then perhaps it wasn’t a good fit at all. That’s disappointing, but it might be better in the long run, because you’ll be more satisfied with someone whose ideas mesh with yours. 
  • Routine care can be handled by a GP or Family Doctor, a Nurse Practitioner, or a Physician’s Assistant. Planned Parenthood and clinics like it can provide routine care, screenings, and contraceptives. It’s important not to skip pap smears and mammograms as needed.