Attitude Makes a Difference
In previous articles, I’ve written about finding a good doctor and firing bad ones. But another important part of my experience with good clinical support focuses on the staff at a medical office. For me, the competence, friendliness, and support of the staff can make or break the relationship.
The practice is just as important as the doctor
A few years ago I had to fire my general practitioner because of a combination of her availability and responsiveness. In the end, I discovered a number of problems and it was distressing because I liked the doctor as a person. One of the biggest problems was that she could never fit me in when I had an urgent health issue, such as an infection. Instead I had to go to the ER, which to me seemed like not having a GP at all.
But another major problem was that I could never get paperwork through the office in a prompt and accurate manner. I learned later that it was a combination of the doctor’s disorganization and the failure of the staff to manage these items. No surprise, but paperwork is super important for health insurance and getting coverage on things I need, like my wheelchair!
In the end, I had to choose between getting my needs met and the incompetence of this medical practice. But it definitely made me more wary and aware of the role of clinical staff.
For example, when I need anything from my rheumatologist I know his assistant and how to reach her. She writes letters for him to sign, follows up with the health insurer on getting medications approved, and just makes sure that things happen in a timely manner. And she is super nice about it and follows up to make sure I have what I need. Just stellar!
I am less enamored of a nurse at my new GP who doesn't seem to care at all about patients. When I met her for the first time and she showed me in my wheelchair to an inaccessible exam table, I just about flipped. It seemed willfully rude to bring me into a room that I could not use. Then when I politely asked to me moved and she brushed me off, that was the nasty icing on the rotten cake. This is a person who clearly doesn’t care about her patients and supporting their care.
My experience with the nurse at my rheumatologist (ironically in the same office space!) could not be more different. She always asks how I am, moves a chair out of the room to accommodate my wheelchair, and talks baseball because we’re fans of the same team. In just a couple minutes of interaction, I know that she cares about me and my wellbeing and is working to help set the
appointment on the best foot.
It may sound silly, but for someone who spends a lot of time in doctors’ offices, attitude really makes a difference. I don’t want to be somewhere where I don’t have the feeling that they care about me and doing their job to support my health, whether it’s a doctor prescribing treatment, a staff member processing my health insurance claim, or a nurse recording my vital signs. A caring attitude keeps me coming back, especially when my health gets rough and I don’t want to engage in the challenges of treatment.
I’m not going to change my GP because of one bad nurse interaction, but I have taken note of it and will look out for the signs of a trend. I hope that she was having just one bad day. But I won’t let my care be compromised by bad attitudes.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?