How Not to be a Doctor.

Dear New Doctor,

Hi! I’m Rachel. You should know that, but since you didn’t read my chart, I guess you don’t.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve been seeing a wonderful doctor all summer, but he wasn’t in the correct specialty to continue treating me. So, he referred me to you – for your expertise and advice.

Even with his office making the appointment for me, I had to wait a month to see you. A month spent trudging through my symptoms while wearing the hope that you would be able to help me manage them more effectively. So I was unusually anticipatory when I arrived at your office on Wednesday.

As I got out of my car, I was as hopeful as the sky seemed, and my Instagram caption to go with it:

Birmingham Alabama Skyline

Fog burning off, clouds rolling in, blue skies in between. Birmingham.

As she took me back to my room to await your regal arrival, your nurse assured me, “You’ll love New Doctor – he’s so smart.”

And I’m sure you are – because they don’t have remedial medical school. I hope.

However.

It did not seem smart when you came into the room, listened to my heart for ten seconds, asked me about my symptoms and then followed up with, “And you don’t have any other symptoms?” (because apparently the severity of my long list of symptoms did not deign me with the right to be in your presence.)

It also did not seem smart when you promptly diagnosed me with a syndrome that explains the 1% of my symptoms – coincidentally the same 1% that can be objectively seen on a test.

(Although I do adore myself some objectivity as well.)

It seemed even less smart to then tell me that there really wasn’t anything that could be done about that 1%, except try this drug that might help or might do nothing or might make me worse. Nor was it comforting when you reiterated that all of the lifestyle changes I’ve made to help decrease my issues were completely unrelated to the problem and would not do any good whatsoever, nor would any other changes.

“Drinking more water, eating more salt, lowering caffeine – none of this has anything to do with what is wrong with you. It’s a reflex problem, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. You will just have to learn to have to live with it.”

But really – who doesn’t want a doctor to tell you that you’re full of crap for drinking more water? I do. I hate the stuff. So I’ll give you ten points for that.

Let’s move on. I’m sure that you get all kinds of wacko hypochondriacs in your Kingdom, but when I inquired as to the rest of my very real symptoms, your reply of “Well, we all have vague symptoms that can’t be explained…” was not refreshing. Nor was it when you used that “you’ll just have to live with it” line again.

But I was positive that you scored the highest marks in your Condescension 101 class when you made sure to repeat very pointedly several times how many different tests I’ve had that didn’t show anything wrong with me (leaving me to remind you of the one test that did, but hey – that’s only one test. Why should we listen to it?), and that there was clearly no mechanical issues with my heart, so – again, the live with it load.

All of that was great and wonderful and I had a delightful time venting to my friends and husband via text as I left your office. How I had waited a month for that ten minute appointment with you, despite your nurse assuring me that our visit would be at least 40 minutes. And how you had wanted so very much to make sure that I could read between the huge gaping lines that you thought I was fabricating my entire life.

When I got to my car, I was as upset as the sky seemed, and the caption to go with it:

Birmingham Alabama Storms

Gone are the blue skies. I know how you feel, Birmingham.

But you know what the really fantastic part was?

Three hours later, when your secretary called me back.

“Hi. Is this Rachel? Oh good. New Doctor reviewed your records after you left, and he realized that you did not need to take the medication he prescribed you, but instead, he has another one he wants me to call in for you. You haven’t already picked up that prescription, have you?”

“Um, yes, I have.”

“Oh I’m so sorry – well don’t take it!”

“Why exactly does he want to change my prescription?”

“Well, he said he’d reviewed your records and realized that something else would be a better approach.”

“And what is this other medicine? Is it just a different beta blocker?”

“Um, let me look it up. No…it actually looks like it’s…it’s a….steroid??”

“I have very bad reactions to steroids. I’d like to understand a little more about why he decided to change my medication that much before I take anything.”

“Okay. I’ll let him know about your reactions and find out why he wanted the change.”

And then ten minutes later, when she called back.

“Hi, Rachel? I talked to New Doctor about your steroid issues, and he said for you to just take the original medication that he prescribed you.”

“The beta blocker?”

“Yes.”

“But…why did he want to change my medication so drastically in the first place?”

“Well, I asked him again and he just said that it was because he reviewed your records and thought it best.”

“Awesome.”

Actually, those two conversations really did make me feel much better. Because they sealed in my mind what I had hoped before – that you’re the one that’s suspect, not me.

So here’s what I prescribe for you:

1. Buy a chalkboard.

2. Hang it in the waiting room.

3. Write “I will read my patient’s charts before or while they are in my care” 100 times.

(You’re gonna be shocked at what useful information can be found within!)

4. Erase your chalkboard.

5. Write “I will assume my new patients aren’t crazy until they prove otherwise” 200 times.

(Non-crazy people are out there, and if they don’t hear how dreadful you are first, they might visit you!)

6. Erase your chalkboard.

7. Write “My patients might even be intelligent. They have a right to a medication explanation” 300 times.

(I know, this is getting way out there, but WE CAN UNDERSTAND YOUR WORDS. USE THEM.)

If that doesn’t help, then your symptoms are probably too vague to treat. Learn to live with them.

Sincerely,

Your former patient.

Leave your comment below!

Comments

  1. 1
    MamaHen says:

    Oh Rachel, so sorry this happened to you. Kick him to the curb, in the most polite southern way possible, and don’t ever return. I think many times doctors think we are there for them, instead of the reverse.

  2. 2
    Nikki says:

    You know my opinion. A plague upon doctors that forget their oath to CARE for people. There are amazing doctors out there. This is not one of them.

  3. 3
    Lindsay D says:

    I am so sorry you waited a month for that visit. What a moron. I hope you are able to find a great Dr.

  4. 4
    Barbara says:

    I am so sorry. How frustrating and what a waste of time. Seems like you were getting closer to having your symptoms diagnosed by friends and internet detective work. We have so many doc holidays where I am sometimes we think the only good diagnosis will be at our autopsy. Don’t give up….one good connection can change everything.

  5. 5
    Melanie Miller says:

    Ohmyword. So sorry for this frustration, Rachel. I’ve heard a theory that the more specialized the doctor, the colder the bedside manner. This yahoo would be proving that theory, unfortunately. Hang in there, we’re all pulling for you!

  6. 6
    Christine says:

    Um, wow. That’s really all I have to say except. EW! Find a new doc stat! ;) So sorry you’re dealing with this. I’ve been having some medical issues of my own so I completely understand your frustration. I had one surgeon literally say “You need surgery. But I can’t help you. Your insurance won’t pay.” me..”Ok, what do I do?” Doctor…”I don’t know. Bye.” Wow. That was helpful. I hope you find a better doctor soon! *hugs*

  7. 7
    Leanna says:

    Oh I am sorry. I hate that when doctor’s don’t listen or read your files. I have had that several times for different things. Mostly all I hear is “if you would lose weight the symptoms would get better” Really my ankle is swollen the size of gratefruit and very painful and no I haven’t fallen and twisted it but all you can say is if I lose weight. Or you have extreme fatigue just go mediatate.

    Then my whole gluten intolerance/allergy has never been formally diagnosed but it is clear that I get very sick when I eat something with gluten in it. I think I have finally found a good doctor though, She actually gave me a sleep study for my fatigue found out I have sleep apena. That’s right it wasn’t because I needed to do yoga it was because I wasn’t actually getting any sleep at night.

    Hope you can find a good doctor who will listen.

  8. 8
    Karen says:

    Oh. My. So, so sorry. And to think about the amount he earned from your insurance company for wasting your time! I went through a time (a decade!) of “vague” symptoms that were difficult to diagnose but almost impossible to function with. I’m not saying at all that we’ve experienced the same illness, but I was also told more water, more salt, and given beta blockers for a while. Anyway, in the end what I found the most effective, and what finally got me out of that horrible decade, was acupuncture. It took me a long time to try it as I have a bit of a needle phobia, but it really, really helped when I did.

  9. 9
    Dee C. says:

    No physician should ever treat you like that. I highly recommend you sending a disgruntled letter to his office/manager. (Even he has a boss). You are the expert on you, he works for you & not the other way. Also recommend http://www.ratemds.com

  10. 10
    Breenah says:

    DANG. Make sure you tell your other doctor to stop recommending that guy. I hope you can find someone else, goodness sakes.

    • 10.1

      Yup. I don’t think he referred me specifically to that doctor, only to the department. In which case I’m positive this was the “left over” doctor with the emptier schedule.

  11. 11
    Robin says:

    I hope you print out this post and mail it to his house and his office. He needs to know. His nurses and secretaries need to know. Maybe some publicity will finally wake him up!

  12. 12
    Cyndye Bietighofer says:

    Girl, you need to make an appointment with Dr. Jessica Dietrich-Marsh of Health, Inc. in Pelham. 664-7707. She is a restorative health professional. I worked for her for 5 years and I saw miracles daily. She can get to the root cause of the problem in the first visit. Many a patient came to her as “I’m at the end of my rope, doctor’s don’t know what’s wrong with me, these steroids are killing me” and left crying because they were so happy to have found an honest answer with an effective course of treatment that wouldn’t kill them or cause horrible side effects. .

  13. 13
    Terram says:

    Oh my, that’s terrible! Keep trying to find a good doctor, though. My husband had a similar experience when he saw a neurologist about his sudden onset of debilitating migraines. One MRI and a 10 minute discussion and he was told that all of the stuff we’d read about lifestyle changes wouldn’t help, but that this brand new ($200/month AFTER insurance) daily Rx might. Tim eventually found another kind doctor who was able to virtually cure his migraines with a few small lifestyle changes and a 30yo inexpensive Rx taken only as needed. Needless to say, we were awfully glad we trusted our gut and found another doctor. I wish you the same good luck.

  14. 14
    Sheri says:

    That is so frustrating! Going through something like this can make you feel very powerless. I will be praying for you to find a good doctor who has good answers!!

  15. 15
    Julie says:

    Ugh, new doctor, new doctor, new doctor, new doctor. And if he is part of a larger office or the like, definitely send a note to the manager describing your frustrations – maybe it will help the next patient. (Though maybe not till after you get yourself set up with a new doctor you like, to avoid “crazy patient complaining about all this” to your chart before records are transfered).

  16. 16
    April says:

    You need to inform your “wonderful doctor” that this guy is not going to work out and see someone else. What a looser!

  17. 17
    Natalie says:

    #8- I’ll show you where you can put your original prescription and your clipboard that you didn’t even read…

  18. 18
    Elizabeth Morris says:

    Ugh!!! It shouldn’t be so exhausting and such hard work to get the medical help you need. I am in the middle of it with two of my kids and let me tell you, if I was perfectly healthy with not a care in the world before I started this journey, I now need treatment of my own, therapy and a spa holiday. And I think they should pay for ALL of it since they are the cause. When did Doctors stop listening?

  19. 19
    Gena Levenhagen says:

    So sorry to hear about your experience. I shared your blog with my FB group we are all sufferers of a condition called Cluster Headaches. Know that you are not alone your story struck way to close to home for all of us. We hope you are able to find the help you need. I know it is hard but you have to just keep trying. The right Dr. is out there and you will find him/her and it will make all the difference in the world.

  20. 20
    Stephanie says:

    There are few things more frustrating than needing medical help, and, when you finally get it, being completely discounted and humiliated by the doctor. My former dermatologist blew me off when I pointed out a mole I was concerned about–she wouldn’t even bend down to look at it closely. When I got really worried and sought out a new doctor, about a year later, they tested the mole and it was an early-stage melanoma. Being stuck with a doctor who wouldn’t listen could have cost me my life. Don’t give up fighting for appropriate care until you get it, and we’ll keep praying that you find the perfect doctor for you.

  21. 21
    Alice says:

    I’m so sorry this “expert” failed you. It sounds like you need to find someone who specializes in functional medicine instead of going the more conventional or allopathic route. The conventional doctors tend to try to “fix” thing by taking the Band-Aid approach — giving you a drug to get rid of symptoms instead of trying to get to the root cause of symptoms and then working on a solution to get your body to function optimally. I was down a similar road for a long time with some health issues and finally found a very smart and helpful Naturopathic doctor who has been a god-send. We’re working on long-term things to improve some health issues that other doctors wanted to just write me a prescription for anti-depressants and acid-reducing drugs. You might try the Paleo Physicians Network or start googling for “functional practitioners” in your area. They’re out there, but sometimes you have to really search for them. For me, it was worth the search.

  22. 22
    Rachel says:

    Wow, that sucks! So are you going to go back to your original doctor or try to find another one?? You’d think with all the millions of people and all the illnesses out there that they wouldn’t have such a hard time diagnosing them, but of course they do. Hope you can find a new doctor soon!

  23. 23
    Melanie says:

    I’m so sorry that new, smart doctor was an epic fail! Doctors like that give good doctors a bad name. A doctor is supposed to provide care and treatment. He did not do his job.

  24. 24
    Lori T says:

    Man, I am so sorry for all that Rachel. That is so frustrating to be hurting, etc, and not have answers– and to be made to feel inferior by a doctor. I’ve been there. Sorry :( I hope you get some answers and positive results soon.

  25. 25
    Angela in Arizona says:

    I am SO sorry!! I went through FIVE pediatricians before we found the one we liked – and there is nothing worse than a doctor making you feel like the symptoms are all in your head. I mean, do they teach that in med school? Prayers for good health and a worthy doctor!!

  26. 26
    Eleanorjane says:

    Ooh, this post makes me want to swear! It just goes to show that paying lots of money for healthcare doesn’t necessarily mean you get great quality. (You don’t necessarily get great quality with socialised healthcare either… it seems to be a crap-shoot either way.). Persist and we’ll all be praying that you find the right help.

    God bless!

  27. 27
    Marie Zannis says:

    Call Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. Seriously. It won’t cost you a cent to talk to them. I’m sure you’ll have all pertinent info at hand. See where it leads.

  28. 28
    Becky says:

    What a jack@$$. Sorry you wasted your time and had unmet expectations.

    Hang in there <3

  29. 29
    Amanda Sheren says:

    That doctor sucks. Plan and simple. Unfortunately you weren’t made aware of his suckiness by the general universe. :( boo. I hope you write a review of him on some medical website so others will see and think twice. I read medical website reviews of doctors so there ARE people out there who care what others have been through! :) I hope your original good doctor is able to find a MUCH better new doctor for you.

  30. 30
    Jane says:

    I agree with Marie, call Mayo clinic or see if your insurance will cover a visit there (even if it is a haul). They know their stuff.

  31. 31
    Diane S. says:

    One very serious issue in our healthcare system is that, literally, no one gets paid to read a patient’s chart. In-person history, yes. In-person diagnostic interview, yes. Prescribing, yes. Reviewing charts, no. I suspect this was motivated by the best of intentions (pay doctors to talk to patients, not read about them or write about them in absentia) but we’ve all had the “I filled out a book-length form about my life and you didn’t read it carefully” experience in frustration and hurt that results.

    This used to be mitigated by most outpatient docs working for themselves in a small practice, where they could and often did absorb this time as necessary overhead. Now that everything is managed care, most doctors do, as another commenter pointed out, have bosses with business backgrounds. Those bosses think in terms of profit and loss. They work for large companies. Reading your chart is discouraged by stacking patients into a schedule with no time between and overbooking to account for no-shows (think of airline seats being oversold and you’ll get the idea). Spare time is spent writing notes for a chart that no one else really reads either–except when there’s an audit and then accounting types are reading it (sigh).

    Keep trying. It’s a difficult system to utilize if you don’t fit a flow-chart of symptoms and diagnoses and medications. We want to be treated as whole persons but that isn’t how the system functions.

  32. 32
    Carolyn says:

    Make sure you tell the referring doctor. He needs to know that he’s sending his patients to a condescending jerk. And it doesn’t sound like he’s smart. In fact, he sounds like a malpractice suit waiting to happen (if it hasn’t happened already).

  33. 33
    Amanda says:

    I’m so sorry and can completely relate. I’ve been going through tests for a yet to be identified problem/autoimmune for 18 mths now. It is the worst feeling to leave a doctor and not be heard or understood or respected. And yes, sometimes you wait 2-4 mths for an appointment with a specialist and only get ten minutes. They can’t even begin to imagine how that appt. was a the light at the end of the tunnel for you. Maybe THIS time I’ll get an answer and then a big fat nothing.

    Keep your head up and keep changing things around to see if something helps.

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