Feeling like it’s you versus your doctor?

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2012-10-01 12:18:57 -0500
Started 2011-01-26 16:56:05 -0600

There’s no denying that working with the healthcare establishment can be frustrating sometimes. If you haven’t experienced your own frustrations, spend some time cruising though the discussions on Diabetic Connect, and you’ll often run into fellow members posting about their frustrations about their doctors. Doctors that don’t listen, or that don’t seem concerned, or that give them advice that doesn’t make sense, if they take the time to give them any advice at all.

First, I am not saying that all physicians are perfect. They are human beings, so that’s impossible. I am also not saying that they are all created equal. Some are more competent, more patient-focused, or better communicators than others.

But I would also like to take a moment and focus on that word, frustration. Diabetes is one of those health conditions that seems to bring a lot of frustration. Diets that seem totally unrealistic and, even when you follow them, may not be working. Numbers that fluctuate all over the place. Exercise routines that are hard to follow. Family members that just don’t get it. And then that doctor…

What I am saying is that there are lots of reasons for a diabetic to be frustrated. Lots of valid reasons. But I would also like to point out one of the main reasons for frustration: feeling out of control. If there is one thing that doesn't sit well with us human beings, it is not being in control. Not that we are every really in control, but we like to at least think that we are. And so when we see contrary evidence, like our weight or our numbers not being what we think they should be, and what we thought they would be, then that pushes all of those lack of control buttons.

Lack of control equals frustration.

When we feel out of control, we want a reason why. And it is only natural to look outside of ourselves for that reason. As a result, we may also want to strike out at whatever or whomever seems to be getting in the way and taking our control away. That’s a normal reaction.

That brings us back to the doctor. Now I am not walking in your shoes. Doctors don’t always do their jobs as well as they could or should. But neither do us patients.

However, I would encourage you to do a couple of things.

First, use some mindfulness in how you approach your frustration. Stand back and mentally pull yourself out of that “who’s to blame” story. That means not only not placing blame on somebody else for how you are feeling, but also not placing blame on yourself. It’s just not productive.

And then mentally shift your perspective on your doctor. Right now, he/she seems kind of incompetent and unhelpful to you. If that is your view, is going to affect how you work with together (or don’t work together), and how you think about him/her. Your attitude will leak out into your interactions, and that isn’t going to make for a good working relationship.

Instead, assume that your doctor knows what he/she is doing, want sto help you, and maybe needs some more information and encouragement from you to help them to do their job. In other words, envision them as helpful professionals who are on YOUR side and on YOUR team. Think of yourself and your doctor, as well as other members of your healthcare team, as WE — with every member contributing — instead of me versus him, her, or them. Mindfulness helps us to create an objective mindset which, in turn, helps us to evaluate our healthcare professionals for who they are and what they bring to us, and not get caught up in personality and other factors that might be secondary to their professional qualifications.

In other words, stand back, observe, interact… without an agenda like deciding who the bad guy is.

I know this isn't easy when you are feeling disappointed and out of control. But a little shift in perspective can make a big difference.

Here’s another idea. Sit down and make a list of what you think you are doing right in your diabetic self-care, as well as any questions you might have. Make a list of what you think isn't going well, e.g. weight gain.

Ask your doctor or someone else on your healthcare team to sit down with you, review your self-care strategy, and see if there is anything that might be slipping through cracks. Let them know of any challenges you have, e.g. diet or exercise, and ask for suggestions. And even ask how you can be a better partner. You might also ask to speak with a CDE or a nurse who can give you some additional coaching.

I am not saying that you should stick with a doctor that you feel is not someone you can or should work with. But I am suggesting that using some mindfulness – and taking yourself out of the blame game – is a good way to make a rational, informed decision about whom you want on your team.

Any experiences in getting beyond the blame game and teaming up with your doctor? How did you do it? Share the wealth!

16 replies

Dan360 2012-10-01 12:11:20 -0500 Report

There was a time in my life when I thought all the answers I needed were either in a book somewhere or in someone else’s head (or somewhere on the web). After getting a lot of conflicting information I started relying more on what was in my own head. I am not a doctor and I need to rely on the information they have but if they give me information that does not jive with what I have learned and discovered on my own I will question their advice. Especially with diabetes there seems to be so many variations in response to different medications and treatments that the only way a person with diabetes can find their way is to assume responsibility for their treatment. “This works for me.” Or “this is not working for me” should be important input into the situation between doctor and patient. I am constantly reading and asking advice, but I do not feel compelled to believe all that I read or accept all the doctor tells me. I believe my treatment should be a combined input between me and my doctor. If he believes that I should just accept everything he says without my feedback, well, he won’t be my doctor long.

vgarrison 2011-01-31 01:37:25 -0600 Report

I went thru several dr's before I found this one. When I was first diagnosed my dr kept asking me questions like are you a type 1 or 2…ummm how am I supposed to know I'm the one in the ICU with a BS of over 600…

I now use a low income clinic and I have a ARNP (Accredited Registered Nurse Practitioner)…and I LOVE her. She is the first person that I saw that actually had me take off my shoes and socks and check my feet. She also knows that I am a research finatic and I probably know more about some things than her, so we work together on everything. I was more comfortable asking her any questions (I'm not sure, but it could be because she is also the first female Practioner I have ever seen as well), from insulin to female issues.

She also is more open to hoalistic ideas than any doctor I have ever had. I figure if I have to keep putting medicine into my body I'm going to find the best kind possible…so her and I have worked on my vitamin/supplement list together as well…she never shuns any idea that I have for an herb like some dr's have done. Her motto is the same as mine…its my body..I have the final say over what I put in it and why!!

You have to do your own research and print out your results…if you have some info to back up whatever it is that you want the doc to do for you, they are more likely to go with you on it.

Good Luck!!

Blessed Be

GabbyPA 2011-01-31 10:18:45 -0600 Report

I love the sound of your ARNP. Can I come and see her? LOL I love it when they get the holistic thought as well. My primary doctor when I had insurance was more prone to that, but my one now is more skeptical. As long as it seems to work, he will let me try. He is open to trying things for around 3-6 months, but if I cannot make it work for me, then he looks back at the meds.

chascarroll 2011-01-27 13:12:02 -0600 Report

My dr was very understanding and caring and explained in great detail. It was my 1st time to see him so I was VERY thankful for that. But I have had drs in the past treat you as a statistic or medical id # and not an actual person. Its crazy how there are such differences. I hope to get as much info as possible. I cant blame myself for the previous dr not wanting to talk to me. Maybe thats why things were overlooked. The past is the past for a reason.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-01-27 16:57:30 -0600 Report

You are very fortunate to find a doctror who is able to be caring and spend time with you. That is definitely a gift in today's healthcare environment. Sounds like you are a good team.

Aaron1977 2011-01-27 12:34:55 -0600 Report

You can always fire your doctor and get a new one. I've had many endocrinologists throughout my life and finally found one I really like. Don't feel like you have to stay with the same one.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-01-27 16:55:59 -0600 Report

Absolutely! But I always encourage people to understand what it is about their doctor they don't like or don't feel comfortable with, to give the relationship a chance. In other words, to have it clear in their mind what they can reasonably expect and what it is they aren't getting. That also helps them to make more informed choices regarding the next doctor.

Aaron1977 2011-01-27 19:40:45 -0600 Report

My last Dr was greek - which I really didn't care about until he answered his cell phone during one of my appts and started speaking greek to someone for more than a minute. On top of that - I had waited in the waiting room more than an hour. I understand that Dr's may get called out of apptmts for emergencies - but this was clearly a personal call and it was very rude. So I switched Dr's.

A good tip is to bring a list of questions to your apptmt so the conversation is productive.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-01-27 20:05:27 -0600 Report

Hi Aaron,

Wow, now that is an example of a bad doctor experience. I hope you found someone who is more respectful of his/her patients.

And yes, keeping a list helps to make sure that you get your needs met, and it helps your doctor to do his/her job better.

Thanks for posting!

GabbyPA 2011-01-27 08:25:46 -0600 Report

The key really is honesty. With ourselves and with our doctors. I remember one time as a kid, the doctor asked me all the right questions and I told him all the wrong answers. He suspected what was going on and I just couldn't admit things to him. I was embarrassed as a kid. It was horrible and stuck in my mind forever.

My current doctor and I had a bumpy start, but I learned here to treat him as my equal, not a lording over authority figure. Once I got that into my head, it helped me help him to help me....did you get all that? LOL What I'm saying is that sometimes we are frustrated because we are frustrated with ourselves. We say we are being compliant when we really are not. We tell our doctor half of what is going on and expect them to hit the nail on the head.

Now, my doctor and I work together. We have a more open dialogue. But I will be honest, when I am not being as compliant as I should, I feel awkward seeing him. When I am doing what I should be, I am glad to see him. I am always bringing him some weird question he has never heard of. That is good for him. I hope it expands his mind. We discuss my med options and my diet and my exercise openly now. I express to him what I want to achieve and so does he. It took work on my part to break the ice on it. But it is worth it for me now.

Dan360 2012-10-01 12:18:57 -0500 Report

For sure, if you cannot practice honest, you are not going to find answers that work for you. It is an important lesson in life. Dan

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-01-27 16:54:04 -0600 Report

Hi Gabby,

Thanks for jumping in on this. You are exactly right -- sometimes the frustration begins with ourselves, what he have to face, what we are doing, what we are not doing. Once we take the time to get clear on what's really going on with us, then can also take a clearer look at what our role is and what the roles of our healthcare team members are.

Honesty is the key! And if we get clear that the doctor is a professioanl, not our best frined, not our parent, and not our judge and jury, then the relationship can move forward on an equal footing!

I often hear that doctors depend on their patients to help keep them informed, as well as to keep them on their toes.

That's teamwork!

Harlen 2011-01-26 20:01:33 -0600 Report

I dont think its the Doc's it's the ins comp that tells them what they can do and what they cant
Best wishes

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