You should like your doctor.
Whether or not you like your doctor matters. It matters because if you don’t like your doctor, you’re not going to be honest and forthcoming. Your doctor needs you to be honest and forthcoming to take good care of you. And you want good care.
But, realistically, you may not like your doctor. You figured that was OK. You probably don’t see your doctor that often and your doctor does his or her job and everything seems simpatico. But really, do you want the person in charge of taking good care of you to do just an OK job? A job that’s just fine? To me, an OK job is basically just a mediocre job; it’s someone phoning it in. And that’s what is going to happen if you don’t like your doctor. You aren’t going to be forthcoming. You aren’t going to be truthful. You are going to be embarrassed and awkward, and your care is going to suffer.
And that sucks.
This isn’t typically something that your doctor can magically make better. We don’t have a pill to make you trust us.
Your doctor may be terrible — maybe they’re a quack, or racist, or sexist, or ableist, or ageist, or size-ist — or whatever. And of course, you aren’t going to be honest or feel comfortable with this person.
There’s only one remedy for this: Find a new doctor.
And yes, that’s a giant pain in the butt. And yes, it’s time-consuming. And yes, the onus shouldn’t be on you to deal with figuring out someone better because your doctor is terrible in whatever way. And yes, it seems like it doesn’t matter that much.
Except when it does. Except when you don’t understand what your physician is saying and are too uncomfortable to ask. Except when you’re too embarrassed to bring up your honest concerns. To get really good care, you have to be really vulnerable, and that’s a big deal.
It is a huge deal. It can be life or death: Your life or death, in fact.
So please, if you don’t like your doctor, if you don’t understand your doctor, if you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor, if your doctor is terrible, find a new one.
Our feelings won’t be hurt. We get it. We just want the best care possible for you.
There’s this theory in psychology from the 1950s about parenting, called goodness of fit. These two psychologists, Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess, came up with this theory that basically says we are born with our temperament/personality, and it either fits or doesn’t with our parents. Poorness of fit makes children feel like there’s something wrong with them, and they act out. Parents can help foster goodness of fit in the relationship by acknowledging and working with their child’s temperament.
Why am I talking about child psychology from the 1950s?
Because I think goodness of fit as a theory makes so much sense in the doctor-patient relationship. If there’s no goodness of fit — if on a fundamental level as a person you don’t get your doctor, and your doctor doesn’t get you — then you’re always going to have a crappy, tense, poorly functioning relationship.
And this goes back to my original point, we- physicians, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, whoever- really really really don’t want to have a crappy, tense, poorly functioning relationship with you.
It makes our job harder, and you get worse care.
So, today, I implore you — even if it’s difficult — if you don’t like your doctor, take the time and find a new one!
How do you do that? Check your insurance for who they cover, and then ask your friends who they see and like. Google the physician. Google the practice. Google the hospital.
Put as much effort into this as you would buying a car. This person needs to be reliable, safe, up-to-date and needs to make sense for you.
Let’s all make 2021 the year we take better care of ourselves.
You deserve excellent care and goodness of fit.
Caitlin Bass is a hospice and palliative care fellow.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com