Inspired from all the comments she received from my interview with her on chronic illness, Dr. Elvira Aletta compiled some suggestions for finding a good-enough doctor. In her Psych Central post called “Tips to Find a Good-Enough Doctor,” she throws out three basic qualities she looks for in a doctor:
- Expertise, knowledge, intellectual curiosity and all the right credentials.
- Warm, receptive, a good listener and communicator. The bedside manner thing.
- A well-run office, with smart, efficient support & medical staff.
Then she follows up with a few more points to keep in mind while shopping for a doctor:
- If you are in doubt, interview several doctors as if they were applying for a job and you are the employer. If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor or what s/he is telling you, get a second opinion. Don’t even worry about hurting anyone’s feelings. They are professionals and can handle it. If they can’t and give you a hard time, run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.
- Only the actual physical examination needs to be done in the examining room with you in a hospital gown. Any good-enough doctor would allow you to change into street clothes and sit comfortably in a chair for the important post-exam conversation.
- If you want the best, search for your doctor among the medical faculty of a teaching hospital. Medical centers tied to a medical school, teaching hospitals are where the medical students and residents do their training. The faculty who teach and supervise there know the latest diagnostic procedures, tests and treatments because they have to teach it. Putting up with the gaggle of med students (who make Doogie Howser look like a geezer) is worth it as long as your doctor hears you.
- A good-enough doctor will admit when he/she doesn’t have the answer but will work with you to figure out a plan, maybe even try something experimental if you’re willing.
- Trust your gut. Filter out what others say, focus on what your physician is saying and make your own judgment. Don’t micromanage your doctor, but don’t just be a Yes person either.
- A good listening doctor can show compassion without getting all touchy-feely. If you need someone to pet you and say “Poor baby,” (and we all do) go to your mother, a friend or your spouse. Don’t expect it from your doctor.
- Remember that doctors, just like the rest of us, are not perfect. If you found one who is good-enough, celebrate and get to work.