A magnifying glass scanning over a lineup of doctors.

Is My Doctor Good Enough?

I’ve asked myself this question regarding several of my doctors, perhaps too many times, in recent years.

As a person who lives with multiple chronic diseases, primarily rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, I’ve consulted with many, many doctors.

My primary care doctor is a keeper

My primary care doctor (PCP) is one practitioner who I can say, without a doubt, is probably the best doctor I’ve ever had.

I became her patient as she joined the family practice of the PCP that I had specifically chosen. My current primary care doctor is definitely a keeper which is one reason I’ve been her patient for almost 20 years.

I’ve inherited many of my healthcare providers

I’ve inherited many of my healthcare providers as the doctors I had actively chosen moved on, retired, and/or sold their practices. With my current line-up of specialists, there is only one that I had the opportunity to research and actively choose for my care. She is my therapist.

Hit the jackpot or take what we get

When it comes to specialist care, it seems like we patients either hit the jackpot and stumble upon a fabulous physician or simply take what we can get.

My current rheumatologist is one whom I inherited. She was easy to find as a colleague of my previous doctor who retired.

The timing was not good and I needed to see someone soon because it was about time for new Rituxan orders and infusions. It’s kinda sad. My criteria for giving this new doctor a try was extremely limited.

More than anything I wanted a doctor who would continue my current treatment plan without question. That’s it. That was my only concern at the time. My disease was stable and I wanted to keep it that way.

When my rheumatologist is responsive to my concerns

One thing that has always bothered me about my now not-so-new rheumatologist is that she doesn’t spend a lot of time actually examining and manipulating each joint as my previous doctor had. Sometimes I’d swear that she doesn’t even touch both sides of my body.

But when I think about different concerns I’ve brought to her over the years, she really has been a responsive doctor.

Recommended exercises for shoulder pain

Last year, I complained about my left shoulder which happens to be the location of one of my earliest RA flares. It was stiff, causing pain, and had a limited range of motion.

She asked me if I wanted some physical therapy or recommended exercises at home. Since it was early in the COVID-19 pandemic, I opted for a printout of shoulder exercises to do on my own.

CT scan and pulmonologist refferal

A few summers ago, I was experiencing more difficulties breathing. She’s the doctor who ordered a CT scan of the lungs to check for changes potentially related to rheumatoid arthritis or methotrexate use.

She also referred me to a pulmonologist to be checked out. I learned that my lungs were in good shape, but also that my breathing capacity was indeed reduced a minor amount. The constriction brought my pulmonary function into the range of “normal” compared to what it had been as a brass musician.

X-rays and various lab tests

I complained about my knees some years ago and she ordered x-rays. I raised concerns about my meds perhaps not working as well as they should have been and she ordered a VECTRA test to get a different perspective on the state of inflammation in my body since I’m seronegative for typical laboratory tests used to test and monitor RA.

Recently, I expressed concern over the possible lack of response to the COVID-19 vaccine and she ordered an antibody test. More importantly, she messaged me about the test result and made suggestions of what I might do next.

Pain relief for my osteoarthritic knees

Also, once I expressed just how much pain I have been experiencing with osteoarthritic knees in December, she offered pain medication. The medication is a narcotic, but a lower dose option.

I’ve used it sparingly with only half a tablet at night. She has authorized refills on that prescription just with me requesting it through the pharmacy. Those half-tablets have allowed me to get rest during the night so that I can function during the day.

So, what makes a good rheumatologist?

It seems like there is much more to it than manipulating joints during a quarterly office visit.

Although I still think that the in-person examination could be a bit more thorough, my doctor obviously listens to my concerns and doesn’t hesitate to take action to gather more information or make a prescription change.

I appreciate my rheumatologist and all she does

Just by collecting some of these thoughts, I realize that I do indeed appreciate my rheumatologist and all she does. Our relationship has grown beyond whether she will keep me on Rituxan or not. It demonstrates that she really listens to me and doesn’t dismiss my concerns.

What is it that you appreciate or do not appreciate about your rheumatologist? What do YOU look for in a doctor-patient relationship?

Please share your story in the comments. Together as a community we can learn from and support each other.

Be well,
Lisa

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