Are you dealing with a particularly dismissive doctor? Although most patients believe that their nurse practitioner listens, almost half of them report that their doctors aren’t as focused or interested in listening. Why is this so common?
Nowadays, as soon as we develop symptoms that we can't explain we get on the internet to see what we can learn. It is tempting to stress over your symptoms after a quick Google search yields a list of illnesses, some even fatal. However, it’s important not to panic; years of medical expertise and years of seeing hundreds of patients are more valuable than whatever some online articles might tell you.
Doctors deal with many patients that actually have very common ailments but have self-diagnosed themselves with something deadly. It’s only natural that doctors would become jaded about patients using the internet to diagnose themselves. However, in some cases, you know something is wrong with your body, and doctors are not addressing the problem. So, if you are dealing with a dismissive doctor, try these tips to get some real, focused medical help.
Do Not Overestimate Your Pain
By no means am I saying that all patients with dismissive doctors are overestimating their pain. Rather, I’m saying that sometimes, especially if you’ve been disappointed by your physician before, it can be tempting to overestimate your pain to make it appear more serious. Doctors often use the 0-10 rating scale to determine how severe your symptoms are; pain is a subjective experience, so it can be difficult to objectively judge. When they ask for you to rate your pain, it’s not just to access how serious the injury is, but also to use as a diagnostic criterion.
While you might be tempted to call your pain a 10 so you’ll be taken more seriously, you might actually convince your doctor that you’re prone to exaggeration. If you want to find answers it’s best to honestly assess your pain.
Say How It Affects You
Instead of just rattling off symptoms and staring at your doctor blankly, relate your symptoms to your life, literally. Don’t just say, “I’m having really bad back pain.” Try, “I’m having trouble performing at work because it hurts to sit down,” or “I can’t pick up my daughter like I was able to just last week, something is definitely wrong.” Statements like these function two-fold. First, you are communicating exactly what you’re having trouble with; sitting, picking up your child, lifting things, climbing stairs, remembering where your own house is, etc. These are very specific comments that tell your doctor exactly where the problem is and how it affects your daily life; it gives him more to go on and in a context that can only help him "get it right."
Also, describing your symptoms in this way reminds your doctor that you are a human, not just a file. Other aspects of your life are affected by your health, and just like your doctor, you have a full life outside of that exam room. This might give your doctor enough pause to really listen to your situation.
Be Firm But Reasonable
If your doctor is still being dismissive, tell him/her that while you’re sure their expertise has merit, you’d appreciate if they’d reconsider your concerns. Ask him/her to patiently walk you through why they’ve eliminated certain diagnoses or what they think your next step should be. If you keep a cool head they’ll be less likely to dismiss you. This advice especially holds true for women, who are often seen as anxious hypochondriacs. Especially if you’re complaining about less visible symptoms, like mental fogginess or fatigue, then you’ll need to ready yourself for potential doubt. Your doctor might be able to see a sprained ankle or a specific rash, but that doesn’t mean that those sorts of injuries should be treated with more severity than "invisible" illnesses.
Be Prepared to Walk Away
If your doctor is truly unresponsive to your complaints be prepared to leave. There are plenty of other physicians in your area that would be happy to have your business. You do not need to make a scene unless they have behaved outrageously; instead, cancel your next appointment and settle on someone new. Just be more careful about how you choose your next doctor. Get referrals from a friend but don't rely on just that. Though that can be an especially useful tool, don’t fully commit until you have a positive experience yourself. Consider using websites like wellness.com. They provide a database of thousands of doctors, and patients can look up their prospective doctors and read any patient reviews and experiences that people have had with that doctor.
Physicians have an incredible responsibility on their shoulders. While we should all understand that they are human, we should also expect attentive listening and reasonable treatment. A doctor cannot cure or even identify every ailment on the first try, but if you’re finding yourself repeatedly explaining your concerns then it might be time to make a change. There’s no shame in being adamant when it comes to your health!