In 2008, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt ran 100 meters in the Rio Olympics in 9.81 seconds—with enough time to spare to even fit in a grin at the cameras as his competition trailed behind.
That’s also about the same amount of time, research shows, that patients have to speak to their doctor before being interrupted—not with an encouraging, “Tell me more,” or “Wow, this must be really hard for you.” Instead, the interruption after about 11 seconds is just a close-ended question seeking a “yes” or “no” response—effectively shutting you down.
Thankfully, not all doctors do this. In fact, most physicians enjoy listening and interacting with their patients, a lesson being stressed to incoming physicians.
“Simply listening to people’s stories can be therapeutic,” medical student Fletcher Bell told The New York Times. “If there is fluid in the lungs, you drain it. If there is a story in the heart, it’s important to get that out, too. It is also a medical intervention, just not one that can be easily quantified.”
If there is fluid in the lungs, you drain it. If there is a story in the heart, it’s important to get that out, too.
Medical schools have been increasing the amount of curriculum dedicated to what’s called “narrative medicine.” According to The New York Times, narrative medicine is now taught at approximately 80% of medical schools in the U.S. This curriculum teaches students “sensitive interviewing skills” and “radical listening” skills as ways to enhance the interactions between themselves and patients.
“This pandemic has forced many caregivers to embrace the human stories that are playing out. They have no choice. They become the ‘family’ at the bedside,” Dr. Andre Lijoi, a medical director at York Hospital in Pennsylvania told The New York Times, adding that medical professionals who are caring for patients, “need time to slow down, to take a breath, to listen.”
If you’re realizing your doctor or maybe your loved one’s physician is not living up to this standard, you’re not alone.
A survey from Everyday Health and Castle Connolly suggests many patients are willing to make the effort, with 20% of people reporting that looking for a new doctor is “always on their to-do list.” Nearly half of respondents stated they’re considering making the switch within the current year.
But how do you know when it’s time to switch? What signs should you look for? And then once you’re ready, how do you go about doing it?
6 signs it’s time to find a new doctor for your loved one
Think back to recent appointments – or take note of how your next one goes – and look for some telltale signs you might be better off with someone new:
Not only is it disrespectful for a doctor to rush you through your visit, it’s also negligent. You should never feel time-pressured during your visit with any clinician, no matter how “specialized” they are.
Lack of trust
You need to trust your loved one’s doctor, but they also need to trust you. If you have the feeling something is wrong with your loved one, there’s a strong possibility you’re right. Your doctor needs to trust your expertise and knowledge of your loved one’s health. If you feel like they’re “blowing you off” or not listening, it’s time to find a doctor who will take your concerns with the level of gravity they deserve.
Also, to build trust, your doctor should be straightforward and clear about the reasoning behind certain treatment recommendations and testing. If they’re vague or throw a lot of complicated medical jargon at you, you may need to switch. You need to be fully informed of every decision regarding your loved one’s health. How can you be their best advocate if you don’t have (or fully understand) all the facts?
Unprofessional office staff
The staff a doctor chooses says a lot about their character. Bad attitudes and rude behavior among clinic staff are red flags to look elsewhere.
If your doctor sees you as a symptom or, worse, an abstract collection of different unrelated symptoms, then it’s definitely time to find a new doctor.
Humans are intensely complicated beings, but we are whole beings with interdependent bodies, minds, spirits and emotions. And the quest for optimal health and wellness must take all of these into consideration. If your doctor isn’t addressing your loved one’s medical issues from a holistic lens, it’s time to switch.
They don’t keep pace
With modern technological advancements and the frequency of international medical conventions, there’s no reason why a doctor who went to medical school 30 years ago can’t be as up-to-date as a doctor who graduated from medical school three years ago.
Request a copy of their CV; this will tell you what conferences they have attended and whether they’re receiving additional continuing education or training in their field. See no action? Look elsewhere.
Rude or condescending attitude
One rude, condescending or patronizing doctor can give the whole lot a bad wrap, which is so unfortunate because most doctors are kind, generous and empathic human beings.
So, if your loved one’s doctor has you hating all doctors, it’s time to switch.