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How Do I Know When It's Time to Fire My Doctor

When the doctor-patient relationship is compromised, it's sometimes necessary for a change.
PUBLISHED February 21, 2018
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
The initial phase of cancer is over. You've been through surgery and treatment. Now you're left on your own to recover and return to life. Your medical team hasn't forgotten you. In fact, they've probably already set up periodic appointments for you. They'll want to keep close tabs on your progress for the first year. You'll probably be going in to the office every three months and then you'll progress to every six months and then on to annual visits. As your health improves, the time between office visits lengthens. This is the typical regimen for your aftercare.

As you move from underneath the watchful eye of your physician, it's only natural to feel anxious. It may feel like you've left the safety net of your medical team, but rest assured, they're still keeping a close eye on you.

During the months between visits, you'll learn to take on the responsibility of paying close attention to any physical changes in your body. If you notice anything abnormal, you'll automatically call the doctor to report it. It's your body, and you want to take good care of it.

Everyone deserves quality medical care, but not all people are given that opportunity. In America, we have many options for health care. Most of the time, we can choose the medical facility and our doctor of choice, unless insurance stipulates otherwise. Sometimes, in the midst of care, it becomes evident that a change needs to be made, but not everyone understands they have the right to make this decision.

When diagnosed with cancer or any other life-altering disease, medical care becomes paramount. It's important to find a doctor who specializes in the area of your health problem and since this will more than likely be a long-term relationship, it's important to find a doctor who is knowledgeable, personable and willing to listen.

The doctor-patient relationship can be very instrumental to recovery. As the patient leans on the doctor for expertise, a unique bond of trust forms. In the beginning stages of treatment, it's normal for the patient to be fearful. Everything is new and different. Doctors who are compassionate about their patients work hard to build confidence and provide reassurance during this stressful time. But what happens when this level of care isn't present? How does a patient respond when a doctor seems to lose interest?

Doctors who treat cancer or other debilitating diseases often have heavy caseloads. Occasionally, the level of care they provide for patients may be affected in a negative way. At times, a patient may find herself wondering if she's receiving the quality care she deserves, but even though she may be displeased with the level of care she's getting, she may be hesitant to leave. Finding another doctor can be a challenge and it isn't easy to transfer medical records. Making the switch can leave a patient feeling uneasy, but a patient must be their own health advocate. It's important to weigh the pros and cons. If leaving means better care, then it might be time to say goodbye to the physician and find one who is more attentive.

Fault doesn't always lie with the physician. Sometimes, patients are unable to communicate clearly. Making a list of concerns to share with the doctor is often helpful and keeps the patient focused on the issues at hand. Instead of rambling during an appointment and causing the doctor difficulty in getting to the root of the problem, clear communication is the key.

When you realize it's time to hand your doctor a pink slip, what is the best way to do it? First of all, don't be afraid to make the choice to leave. The doctor works for you and it's your right to leave if you decide you aren't getting the care you deserve. Understand you don't have to settle for substandard care. If a doctor seems too busy to hear your concerns, it's time to speak up.

You may or may not want to talk to your current physician and explain your decision. Should you decide to do this, state the facts in a clear and concise way. Share your disappointments and expectations without fault finding and blaming. Reiterate your need for a different level of care.

Ask for a copy of your medical records, including lab reports and tests. It is your right to receive a copy of all medical records. However, most offices require a medical records release form before they will provide copies to the patient. This is a simple form to complete and usually only requires the patient to read and sign the release.

When seeking out a new doctor, check credentials. The Internet makes this an easy task. Talk to family and friends. One of the best ways to find a caring and compassionate physician is by word of mouth. First-hand experience can provide more information than you might receive through online searches.

No one wants to have to dismiss their doctor, but sometimes it's necessary. If a one-on-one discussion doesn't yield fruitful results, it may be time to move on. Don't be afraid. You deserve the best quality care and if you're not getting it, take matters into your own hands.
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