How to empower yourself next to those in white coats

Finding a health care provider who is supportive, compassionate and understanding may sound like a no-brainer, but in actuality it may be one of the most difficult parts of your disease journey. I’ve encountered gastroenterologists on both sides of the spectrum… and boy does it make a difference. I’m  sure many of you have met doctors along the way whose bedside manner and thought process leaves much to be desired.

Ideally, you’re able to secure that patient/doctor relationship before a flare up or a hospitalization, but that’s not always possible… or the case.

Tips for finding “the one”:

  • Feel empowered by your healthcare choice: Be comfortable with your treatment plan and the way your disease process is handled. No one has a gun to your head making your take a certain medication or see a certain specialist. It’s your body. It’s your choice. Do what’s best for you. Follow your intuition.
  • Speak up and voice your concerns: Team up with a doctor who values your input and experiences and doesn’t group you with other patients or belittle what you know. See a doctor who makes you feel like your case matters and is unique, because it is and deserves that type of attention.
  • Ask yourself this question: During a hospitalization, do you want your current doctor at your bedside?: If your doctor brings on Crohn’s symptoms because he/she makes you nervous or uneasy…that’s an easy answer and it’s time to “shop” around. The last thing you want is to feel even more out of control of your care while lying lifeless in a hospital bed. Choose a doctor who you trust in your heart is doing all they can to make you whole again.
  • Be your own advocate: Sometimes you need to be assertive and push back. Educate yourself about treatments and why certain tests or medications may or may not be necessary. If you’re feeling great and don’t see the need for that colonoscopy at the moment, do what you are comfortable with and re-visit it in a few months. (I’ve done that—no issues). Nobody knows your body better than you—trust in that.
  • Find a doctor who’s accessible: Many doctors understand that symptoms don’t strike from 9-5 p.m.; I’ve encountered a GI doctor and a surgeon (not affiliated) who provided their personal cell phone numbers to me. Build that rapport and confidence with your doctor. Just having that number in your wallet can bring all kinds of comfort. Leading up to my surgery in August 2015 it was amazing to talk to my GI from my hometown who’s been by my side since I was diagnosed in 2005. He called me while he was driving—his words eased my fears and confirmed I was making the right choice. Now THAT’s a doctor who cares. Wish I could clone him!
  • Ask around your IBD network: Just like with many things in life—talk with friends, family and colleagues and see if they can recommend a doctor they love. Social media is a great outlet to do so. A doctor’s reputation is usually pretty spot on.

Always remember your doctor is a key player in the game—and the balls in your court to choose one who suits your needs. I’ve dealt with doctors who left me sobbing in the parking lot, feeling useless… to others who have lifted my spirits to new heights. You deal with enough as it is already, you didn’t choose your chronic illness, but you can choose who you want on the front lines to take it on with you.

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