Your Doctor is Not Your Enemy: Building a Good Relationship with Your MD

There’s a lot of doctor hate going around, especially in the natural living community. I understand that some people out there have been wronged by their doctors. Some have been misdiagnoses, mistreated, or had their concerns dismissed, and they are rightfully upset. However, the blind distrust of doctors can have some pretty serious repercussions as well. I’d like to present you with some tips for working with your doctor and building a good working relationship.

Tips for Building a Good Relationship with Doctors

Let’s start with a basic review of your rights as a patient. As a patient you have the right to the following:

  • Informed consent which includes information presented verbally and in writing in your preferred language.
  • Seeking a second opinion before consenting to treatment.
  • “Firing” a care provider by reversing your consent.
  • Privacy regarding your personal information. (Check out this link for more information on HIPAA.)
  • Care that is understanding and sensitive to your religious and cultural beliefs.

Please note that in emergency situations, there can be some exceptions made. In general, if you are conscious, of sound mind, and able to voice your consent, or lack thereof, any medical professional should respond appropriately.

Let’s continue with your responsibilities as a patient. Yes, you have responsibilities as well. As a patient, you should assume the responsibility to:

  • Provide accurate and complete information to any person providing care to the best of your ability. Withholding information from your doctor can lead to dangerous, and sometimes deadly, complications. This includes listing natural supplements and treatments, and being honest about your compliance with past orders.
  • Voice your concerns or lack of understanding. If you don’t understand what a doctor said, or what a form means, ask for further clarification. If you need the information in another language, ask for a translator (or get someone to ask for you).
  • Comply with treatment to the best of your ability, or tell your care provider why you are unable or unwilling to comply with the treatment prescribed. If you know you won’t even drop the prescription off at the pharmacy, don’t tell the doc that you’ll take it.

Okay, now that you know what’s expected of you and what your rights are, let’s talk now about how you build a good relationship with your doctor. I’m going to first give some basic points that are valuable when establishing a good relationship with any physician, then I’ll talk more specifically about how you can balance care with a medical doctor and natural treatments.

When dealing with any doctor for any issue, the following tips can help build a positive doctor-patient working relationship:

  • Try to keep an open mind. Some people just don’t like doctors, and that’s okay, but don’t go into the first appointment assuming the doctor will be horrible. If you go in with that mindset, you’ll probably find the results you’re looking for.
  • Be honest and ask questions, but try not to be combative. It’s fine to disagree, but there’s no need for name calling, shouting, or being nasty.
  • Understand that doctors are people too. Sometimes they have bad days. While this doesn’t excuse gross malpractice, it might excuse a somewhat gruff bedside manner during a first meeting. I had one doctor that I could not stand, and even left his practice just because of his personality. A year or so later, he was the doctor to admit me when my water broke with my first child, and he was wonderful. That being said, sometimes a doctor’s personality might just rub you the wrong way, and that’s okay too. Simply find another doctor to follow up with in the future, but remember to cancel any outstanding appointments with the doc you didn’t like.
  • Which reminds me… I feel silly even typing this one, but keep your appointments, or call and cancel if you won’t make it. Cancelled appointments can be rescheduled and used for patients who need to be seen more urgently. Missed appointments are just empty exam rooms. Be polite and call in.

Now, if you happen to be more naturally minded in your approach to healthcare, you might be a little more skeptical of this whole positive patient-doctor relationship thing. I completely understand that the natural healing world and the world of medical science have not always seen eye-to-eye and many people have been caught in the cross-hairs. If you are more naturally-minded, I still suggest having a relationship with a medical doctor in case you ever need their assistance. Here are some tips for cultivating a balance between conventional medicine and natural approach.

  • Whenever possible, find a doctor who also believes in a natural approach, or who is more open to trying natural cures. If your doctor isn’t versed in the specific remedies you want to use, find a natural healer who is willing to work with your doctor, and a doctor who will consult with them. For example, there’s no reason you can’t take herbal remedies and medications, but some of them will interact and your doctor and herbalist can work together to find a good combination. If you know that there are certain natural treatments that you already practice or wish to pursue, bring this up in your first appointment and see if your doctor is willing to incorporate these treatments into an overall plan for health.
  • Be open to learning about your doctor’s perspective, and explaining your own. You might need to educate a doctor on why you would prefer to try acupuncture to treat a certain ailment. Likewise, the doctor might be able to provide information about new technology that can also treat the same issue in an even less invasive manner.
  • Ask about the risks of waiting while you give a natural treatment time to work. Some issues need to be addressed more urgently than others. If your concern is not urgent, ask your doctor if you can try a natural remedy first and then set a follow up appointment in a few weeks to reevaluate.
  • You are the expert on you, how you are feeling, your experiences, your world view. The doctor is the expert on the science working inside of you. You should both have the same goal: a happy, healthy, satisfied life. You might have different methods to get there, but you can work together to achieve the goal. If you find that a certain doctor won’t work with you towards that goal, find a new one.

One last thought before I leave you. We have the science of anatomy, physiology, chemistry, pharmacology, etc., but it is the practice of medicine. Doctors study the sciences related to human health, but they practice medicine. Even with all the studies and research out there, there is a lot of variable in the human body that is unpredictable. A little grace can go a very long way in your relationship with anyone, even your doctor.

That’s it my lovies. I hope you found this helpful. Comment below with any additional tips you might have to share.

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