As a healthcare professional in the industry for almost twenty years, I can tell you that doctors are no different from all the other types of personalities that you've experienced out there in the world. There are real altruists and saints, and there are also real jerks, mercenaries, and even criminals. Most, however, are like us and fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of “normalcy.” That means, you should not accept a cold, stoic, blunt or careless attitude from your doctor as okay or “typical for being a good doctor.”
There is an abundance of expertly skilled and capable doctors out there that can help you overcome your pain or disability, who are not the “chief of the chief” of their uber specialized departments. Sometimes the best practitioner recognized by awards and accolades will not be the best choice for your body’s needs.
The first thing I’ll say to you is to trust your instincts. The opposite of trusting your instincts would be to google search online and then pick out the doctor with the highest ratings or most letters after his or her name, and hope for the best. That’s what I did, when I needed reconstructive jaw surgery and didn’t know where to start. Don’t do that!
True, Google might be a starting point, but you should corroborate your findings with a personal recommendation.
Where do your doctors’ go for a problem similar to yours? If you don’t have a doctor’s direct recommendation, then asking an experienced friend or family member you trust, would be a good first place to start. Even better, if you have a musculoskeletal problem you can speak with your physical therapist and ask who they trust. As a therapist myself, I can attest to the fact that most of us keep track of the bad, the good, and the better than average doctor’s cases that we see coming through our doors over the years.
I remember asking this very question to Dr. Cheng, one of my Chinese Medicine doctors in acupuncture college: “How do I find the best doctor from a list of all equally qualified and credentialed practitioners?” His answer was very unique… and still haunts me to this day. He advised, “Wait until night and see which doctor has the most ghosts outside his clinic door. He who has practiced the most, and learned from his mistakes, is the best. The one who took the least risks and always played it safe is the most dangerous.”
Hard to say that anyone of us will be looking for someone else’s ghosts, but the point of story is still very profound and applicable to us today. We should not make the mistake of chasing after another doctor’s long string of accolades as the only testament to his or her medical skill. Sometimes it is easier for doctors to take the road frequently traveled, acquiring high professional stature, but never being innovative or taking risks enough to grow and help patients with challenging cases.
In ancient China it was simpler for doctors to protect their reputation. Many would look at an overly complex or difficult illness and state that it could not be healed — they wouldn’t even attempt to treat the patient. They would not take the risk of failing and therefore being known as an incapable physician. The truly great doctors, even today, are the humble innovators who are not afraid of being transparent with their patients. These are the ones who will approach even the toughest cases and at least give it a try.
This is not to say that you are to look for an orthopedic surgeon that will, “try my best on your knee replacement.” But, the point here is that the doctor you are comfortable with should be honest and open with you about his or her impression of your condition. There are not always straight up and definitive answers, even though we want that kind of solid assurance. If you search around looking for a sure-fire guarantee from a physician, then you are setting yourself up for an outcome that may well become compromised.
If you do have to undergo surgery, make sure to inquire about your surgeon’s approach to your specific procedure. Do they use assistants or other less experienced doctors-in-training? Will they be teaching students during your operation? And, if so, will the surgeon be directly supervising the entire time, or will they be stepping out after the most critical part is performed, handing over the remaining time to another doctor you’ve never heard of?
Every procedure and every physician’s decision for you has some degree of risk. If your doctor cannot acknowledge that to you, then move on elsewhere.
There is an old adage that states, “If you walk around the edges of the puddle long enough, eventually you’re going to get your feet wet.” It happens. There is risk in everything. But, you should fully understand the entire scope of the risks presented, before making a decision in your heart that you are ultimately comfortable with.
If you would like to speak with Alté View about finding a doctor that's a great fit for you, please reach out to us here and we'd be happy to help point you in right direction.