Breaking Up With Your Doctor
Is your doctor-patient relationship on the rocks? Find out if it's time to move on.
Wait, Can You Hear Me Now? continued...
Keep in mind that this is a partnership, Blackall says, where both parties
bring expertise to the table. The physician brings medical expertise and the
patients bring the expertise of knowing their body and preferences for
treatment and care.
"The core assumption is that both parties are trying really hard to help the
person get better," Blackall says. "There are times in a doctor-patient
relationship where there are going to be outright disagreements. It's actually
So when is it time to fire your doctor? "If you feel in your heart that
you’ve given your best effort to build a partnership with your physician and it
hasn't happened, then it's time to move on," Blackall says. "If a person
decides that it’s time to move on, it should be a conscious choice, not one
made out of haste or anger."
When Your Styles Don’t Mesh
When Crystal Brown-Tatum, a public relations firm owner in Shreveport, La.,
was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, she sought out a female oncologist.
She says she initially found her doctor “pleasant and caring." But as her
treatment progressed, Brown-Tatum found her doctor to be too clinical, less
compassionate, and desensitized to her needs.
"I began to dread going to see her," Brown-Tatum tells WebMD by email. So
she decided to find another oncologist. The final straw was a scheduling
mistake. Brown-Tatum used that as the reason for switching practices, because
she didn’t want to hurt the doctor’s feelings.
“I have no anger toward the doctor,” Brown-Tatum writes. “Her treatment
style became more of a personality conflict. At the end of the day, the patient
must feel 100% comfortable and confident with her doctor.”
Cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong
switched oncologists because he wasn't comfortable with the language the first
doctor used to describe his treatment ("I'm going to hit you with chemo... kill
you and then bring you back to life."), Gary M. Reisfield, MD, and George R.
Wilson III, MD, of the
University of Florida Health Science Center wrote in the Journal of Clinical
Oncology in 2004. Armstrong found another oncologist whose approach better
"There are times when it's just not a good chemistry between people,"
Blackall says. "You don't hit it off. That's not because they're a bad doctor
or you're a difficult patient. It's because your styles are so different you're
just not compatible."
Partnering With Your Doctor
Medical training and accreditation programs have added communication skills
training courses, so the emphasis on communicating with patients today has come
a long way from the traditional "doctor knows best" model.
"We’re not talking about an 'either-or,'" Makoul says. "A patient wouldn't
want a great communicator over somebody who is excellent technically and
clinically. The point is to be excellent across the board; patients are looking
for the whole package."