Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: When It’s Time To Find a New Provider

You can start to sense when the relationship has run its course. Maybe clinic appointments are feeling rushed. Maybe you don’t feel heard or understood. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable with the treatment approach and the care you’re receiving. Switching doctors isn’t easy, it takes some guts. First, it involves recognizing you deserve and need a change and then it’s a plunge into the unknown and starting anew with someone who doesn’t know your back story.

I’ve been there before throughout my nearly 19 years living with Crohn’s disease. I knew I needed to make a change when I was hospitalized for the third time in 15 months and my gastroenterologist at the time didn’t come to visit me, but rather sent his partner. Not only that, but it was also my third bowel obstruction in 15 months and his partner made the call that more extensive scans were needed to get the bottom of what was going on. When a magnetic resonance enterography scan (MRE) showed I needed bowel resection surgery, my own doctor never followed up. Instead, his partner called me to share I needed part of my small intestine removed while I lied in a hospital bed sick, scared, and in shock. In that moment I knew during my recovery, it was time to find someone else to manage my care.

Making the next move

As I recovered from 18 inches of my small intestine and my appendix being removed, I started to “shop” around by doing research on the internet about gastroenterologists in my area. I spoke to my colorectal surgeon for recommendations. I went to lunch with friends who worked for and were actively involved with my local Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and asked them who their providers were. Each time—I heard the same name.

I never contacted my former GI. I never said goodbye. I ripped the band-aid off and never looked back. His office never once followed up after my surgery. It felt like we both ghosted one another, and that was for the best.

Understand that when you don’t feel like you’re receiving optimal care and with a provider you can trust wholeheartedly, you don’t owe them anything. It’s not about hurting feelings or egos; it’s about finding the perfect fit for you and your medical needs. You want to build a care team that supports you and genuinely cares about your health and overall well-being. You want a provider who goes to bat for you, whether it’s writing appeal letters to insurance for your biologic medication or calling you from their car when you leave a Portal message on a Friday desperately seeking guidance on what to do with symptoms that are keeping you up at night.

What to look out for

You’ll know when you find them. There’s a rapport that’s there that’s hard to put into words. When you’re in a hospital bed feeling like the world is crashing down, they steer the ship, and you count on them to bring you to safety. You don’t feel nervous bringing up concerns. You feel as though you’re a partner in your care rather than a subordinate.

Some doctors look down upon patient advocates because many of us are not medical professionals; you want a provider who doesn’t see your advocacy work as a threat, but rather cheers you on for your efforts to support and help others. You want a provider who attends the big medical conferences and is on the pulse of research. You don’t want the cookie cutter approach for your complicated chronic illness, you want someone who sees the gray area and addresses what else can be done to improve your quality of life. You want a care provider who sees that Inflammatory Bowel Disease is more than “just” the GI tract, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis can wreak havoc on the entire body and affects us not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.

Trust your gut

When it’s time to make your move and start fresh, be as prepared as possible. Have your next provider appointment lined up. Make sure there’s not any concern about missing a dose of your medication. Sometimes the grass may be greener on the other side, and you’ll see a new doctor and miss your old provider. You can make an appointment with a new doctor while you have your current one. Be strategic and transparent but know that you don’t owe an explanation to anyone. In your heart of hearts, you’ll know when your doctor is a good match. Don’t settle for anything less.

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