Finding My New Rheumatologist, Part 1

Last updated: February 2022

My rheumatologist told me that he is retiring in May. Gulp. I have been with him a long time, and I have always treasured his advice and skill in treatment.

Dr. N is a great guy, and he is a valued part of my medical team. We have been together for 15 of my 21 years since diagnosis. My former rheumatologist also left, moving to a different city to practice. At the time, I did not mind seeing him go as much as I was worried that I would not find a new one.

A handful of rheumatologists in my area

There were only a handful of rheumatologists in northern Indianapolis at the time and, at my hospital system, there were 2. When I heard mine was leaving, I walked next door and made an appointment with the other one.

It was a great happen chance that it worked out so well. Frankly, walking next door was the entire amount of research I put into it. I just needed one, and I knew I needed one quickly. My rheumatologist at the time told me I would not be happy with Dr. N. Not happy? Was he kidding? Dr. N would take me on as a patient, he practiced in my hospital system, and as far as I knew, he was not a felon. Bingo, I was all set.

A great doctor-patient relationship

Far from being unhappy, we have enjoyed a great relationship. We have worked together to find how to proceed during medication, life, and physical changes. No, he is not the youngest person, but he remained sharp, and if I mentioned something, he would research and let me know his feeling. Once he was versed in the pros and cons, we (he and I) would decide and go forward.

He liked that I am plugged into the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), community support groups, and he has always been willing to support those efforts. It has been a great match.

All things come to an end

However, as I say, all wonderful things end eventually. Dr. N’s retirement is expected. A few years ago, he told me he had decided to scale back his practice. He stopped taking new patients, and he advised patients when it was in their best interest to move on if he felt it was time.

Two years ago, he reduced his working days, taking Mondays off. That was when he gave me his cell number if I needed something over a weekend. That was a number I only called once, and he was almost happy to hear from me even though I was embarrassed to make the call.

When he told me of his retirement, I asked him to give me the names of some doctors who he would suggest. In true Dr. N fashion, he said if I developed a list of who I was looking at, he would make comments, but he would not steer people. Now maybe his approach was just for me. He knew I would be on it like white on rice (yes, we used to say that where I come from). Or, he dealt with all his patients like that; I honestly do not know.

My 6 criteria for a new rheumatologist

My first task was developing my criteria. It was not difficult; I always look for the same things in doctors.

  • They must laugh; this is a deal-breaker. Medicine is much too depressing if we cannot laugh.
  • They must be my partner. I will not go to the mountain to get their blessing. I want their opinion, but within reason. We - not they - will make the decisions, and we will do it from an informed place. I demand at least an equal share in the decisions we will make.
  • I want someone who is not set in their ways. I want a rheumatologist who will learn with me as we go along. This includes learning from our mistakes.
  • I prefer a female doctor. While I have male doctors and I like them all, I will choose a female doctor if all other things are equal.
  • I want someone plugged in. That is plugged into a university, teaching hospital, and other rheumatologists so that they will seek advice when needed. The person might be young, or they might be like Dr. N - someone who is not afraid to try new things.
  • I need someone respected in my hospital system. As a large community hospital, the system I use employs most doctors I see, and while I do not mind them being in private practice, I need them to be plugged into my system and my doctors. My rheumatologist is 1 of the big 4 who takes care of me. These include the endocrinologist, cardiologist, primary care physician, and rheumatologist. Three of those are already employed at the hospital system I am connected to, and I hope the new rheumatologist can also be connected to that system.

Starting first with a consultation

With those 6 criteria, I made a list and started my process of gathering, deciding who to visit for a consultation.

In part 2 of this article, I will tell you what I found and how I decided which doctor to transition to. It has been an enlightening process. Oh, if only the next available choice was the guy next door, and that guy turned out to be much like Dr. N. What I found was so much different and not better.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.

Community Poll

What strategy to fight fatigue is most effective for you?