I’ve said it to my patients, and I’ll say it here as well.
Finding the right provider is crucial when it comes to two providers of medical care — your primary care doctor and your therapist.
It makes logical sense. Patients tend to see these doctors most, more than any other specialty.
Now, I can’t speak for therapy, because it’s not my field. While I do engage in a lot of one-on-one guidance with my patients — discussing psychiatric issues such as depression and anxiety on a regular basis — I also find that establishing care with a specialist in that particular field is priceless, especially when you land the right one.
But primary care — well, that’s a field I can weigh in on, and comfortably at that. Because, in case you haven’t noticed, I practice it.
I like to think of a primary care doctor as the central station of medical care. She’s the keeper of all your conditions. All your medications. All your allergies, social history, and life events. And by that, I don’t mean that she physically “keeps them,” but that they are handy in her chart — a place where she puts it all together in her virtual space — and then retrieves it when needed to make the visit work.
The bare bones of it all are quite sturdy: your building blocks, after all, don’t normally change. But it’s the fluff around it all — the substance of your visits — that are constantly fluid and evolve. A walk in the park may lead to a fall, or a mole may have recently grown. Your nose may be snotty, a cough may not relent, or maybe a new pain in the chest raises suspicion.
She’ll always help you out, your primary care doctor, because she knows who you are. And it’s that barebone piece that makes all the difference in the world. She knows you, and it helps her decide if there’s cause for alarm or whether and which medication works best. It helps to put things in perspective, when your doc knows the baseline you, because she can then take that step back that’s necessary to make proper treatment decisions. It always helps to look at the picture as a whole.
Your primary care doctor is always there for you.
She will see you when you’re down, often at a phone call’s notice. Or when you’re sick. And even when you’re healthy — imagine that — like at your annual visit, when all you need are the checkmarks in the right boxes. And how about those times you worry about those STDs? They need checking! She knows all that goes on with your care, organizing the pieces of your puzzle, tucking them all in, keeping it all organized .. and sane.
Let’s call her your knight. She may not always be in shining armor — there’s often not enough time in the day to get it polished — so let’s leave that part out. She stands over your castle, keeping guard and — picture the best of the bunch, like, “Game of Thrones” caliber — ready for battle at any moment’s notice. Her duty is to keep you healthy. Safe.
It’s all built into the oath she’s sworn when taking that pledge into medicine — the Hippocratic Oath.
She protects your establishment, and that castle is your body and soul. It’s up to her to hold some of the necessary talks with you to review those topics that matter. She may discuss things like:
Why you shouldn’t smoke.
Why you need a certain screening test.
Why you should take a medication. Or shouldn’t.
Why you should be seeing her more often in the coming year.
But ultimately, when push comes to shove, you’re the boss. She’s your loyal adviser to you — her king. You may listen to her side, to her reasoning and mull things over. But ultimately, you’re making the final decisions. Because it’s your life, and you’re the one who’s in control. It’s a relationship built on mutual respect. Once that’s in place, it’s typically sealed in for a lifetime.
Being that I practice in the field of primary care, I can confidently say that I’m acquainted with finer details that make patient-doctor relationships work. Like other relationships in your life, you need a good match. There needs to be trust and mutual understanding. There needs to be respect from either side.
As the patient, you need to make decisions. And understand. Have open discussions. And always leave the office following the plan. Always.
If you’re still out there, trying to find the right guard for your castle, don’t give up. There is a knight (possibly in shining armor) somewhere out there for you. Keep looking — you’ll know when you’ve stumbled upon just the right one.
And, mark my words, when you walk in, she’ll be greeting you with a warm, inviting smile.
Dana Corriel is an internal medicine physician who blogs at drcorriel.
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