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Today’s Prompt: Describe the approach you think is best when it’s time to move on to a new doctor.
I have the gift of being both health care provider and patient. In addition, I am willing to “go public” with my condition. My choice to do this is controversial. However, my health condition is difficult to disguise, so I opt for being genuine.
As a health care provider, I am obliged to follow my profession’s Code of Ethics. It is unethical for me to abandon a client. It is also unethical for me to continue treating a client when I become aware that his or her problems are beyond the scope of my training and skills. I am ethically obligated to refer that client to another, more appropriate provider. In a practical sense, this means that I carefully screen potential clients to determine if I am the right fit for their particular problems. I encourage prospective clients to do the same. During the course of therapy new problems may surface or the original problem may prove difficult to resolve. In this situation I talk to my clients and we make decisions together about the best course of treatment. Lucky for all of us, most sessions are at least an hour long so there’s plenty of time for discussion.
At the beginning of therapy I address termination. I assume that my clients will not continue to see me week after week indefinitely. If a client has been in therapy with me before then we discuss how it was terminated and what we will do differently. In my Informed Consent documents I outline my expectations and preferences for terminating services.
Doctors should do this! They may not be able to spend as much time with people as I can, but they can put in writing how they expect to address complaints, disagreements, requests for referrals or second opinions, and termination. One of the problems with medicine in the United States is that there are no clear guidelines for how to address these issues. It leaves patients feeling powerless and frustrated. In the past when I became frustrated with a doctor, I just stopped going. There was no drama, but there was also no discussion. I left never knowing if the relationship could have been preserved.
This is not ideal. In the long run it hurts doctors, too. As a health care provider, I appreciate it when clients are able to tell me directly when and why they are leaving. I would want to know if something I did or said contributed to the loss of a client. Health care professionals are human, too. We say stupid things on a bad day, miss an important issue because we are distracted, and even fall victim to that most debilitating of all illnesses…arrogance. It is painful to lose a client. If they disappear without explanation we are left to wonder why, never knowing if we could have salvaged the relationship.
I am fortunate to have the same primary care physician for the last 15 years. Sometimes he suggests a referral or second opinion. Sometimes I am the one to address it. If I don’t like his suggestion or don’t plan on following through, I tell him so. Then we try to find an option that we can both agree on. Right now we are trying to find the right migraine specialist to join our “team”. He trusts my judgement on this issue and wishes only for an improvement in my condition, regardless of who finds the solution. I am finding the journey to enlist a new doctor challenging. None of them are my beloved Dr. G. The wait times to get a first appointment are lengthy. Patience is not my virtue so this “waiting game” is testing my limits. I find myself comparing each new doctor to him and being critical of every difference. This is hard. I am picky. I think I have a right to be (see yesterday’s post on my ideal doctor).
I wish I could just send Dr. G off to get special training to treat Migraines…sigh.
National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation.
The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by www.FightingHeadacheDisorders.com.