A New Rheumatologist

I'm moving to New York City very soon, for an unknown length of time, and I have so many things left to do and get organized before I leave. I'm trying to not stress out about it too much, but the days are swiftly speeding by and I'm running out of time. One important thing on my to-do list is finding a new rheumatologist, and this is not an easy feat to accomplish.

I'm very grateful for how helpful and kind my rheumatologist in Minneapolis has been during all of the nearly 10 years I've been with him. When I asked for suggestions about finding a new doctor, he recommended trying to get in to see a rheumatologist at either the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) or NYU--both of which are well-known and well-respected health care institutions located in Manhattan. I'm leaning towards the Hospital for Special Surgery, which is ranked #1 in the U.S. for orthopedics and #3 for rheumatology, according to U.S. News & World Report 2014-2015 rankings. That's pretty encouraging! My doctor told me that HSS originally started out as an orthopedic hospital, which I also like. Maybe someone there can actually figure out what's been wrong with my "mystery ankle" for the last 10 years?

I've actually been playing phone tag with the HSS rheumatology clinic regarding trying to get in to see a specific doctor there--a woman doctor a fellow RA friend spoke highly of and recommended. Miraculously, I called the Doctor Referral Line at HSS and found out that this particular rheumatologist is accepting new patients. Hooray! Now if we can only connect on the phone so I can make a first appointment with her. I'm also anxious about getting sorted with a new doctor in time to stay on schedule with my monthly Actemra infusions. I'll be due for my next dose at the end of April. Cross your fingers for me, please, that this all works out!

Looking for a new rheumatologist can be a tricky, bumpy process, because it's important to find someone who is a good fit--medically and personally. The rheumatologist-patient relationship is often a close and involved one. I contact and see my doctor much more than I see any of my other health care providers. I'm either calling or e-mailing (more recently) my clinic all the time, it feels like. Winding up with my current doctor, who is a rheumatologist at the University of Minnesota, was a stroke of wonderful luck, I think. Especially since I left my previous rheumatologist and rheumatology group of the first 10 years of having RA after going through a terrible experience (awful bedside manner, disrespect, rudeness, lack of empathy, etc.). I wish I hadn't wasted 10 years of my young life with a doctor who didn't really care about me, I felt. But what did I know? I was a scared naive teenager when I began seeing him, and I trusted him completely. Thankfully I finally did manage to leave that unhealthy situation and I found a much better replacement.

The rheumatologist I have now, Dr. B., is incredibly patient, respectful, helpful, down-to-earth, and easy to talk to--I'll miss him a lot. Despite his heavy workload and crazy busy schedule, he always finds a way to squeeze me in for an appointment if I'm having a flare-up and need to be seen. During appointments he will sit and talk with me for as long as I need, answering any and all questions I might have. And I never feel stupid or like I'm being a pest for asking questions. My former rheumatologist, on the other hand, usually made me feel that I was bothering him or that my questions were stupid, and spoke to me in a condescending tone. I don't know if he thought I was questioning his abilities as a doctor? Who knows. I was young and worried and wanted help and answers, that's all. Dr. B. never makes me feel stupid or like I'm a burden to him, and I appreciate that so much. That's how a doctor should treat his or her patient, isn't it?

Dr. B. will be difficult to replace, and I'm worried that I won't be able to find someone as great as he is. But, the fact is that I'm moving and I need someone new. I also know that if I don't end up liking a new doctor, I have every right to "fire" him or her and find someone else who better fits my needs. It's important to remember that I, the patient, come first. Finding the best RA care team possible to help me fight this nasty disease is what matters.

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