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Breaking up is hard to do; switching doctors isn’t

A neighbor recently admitted to me that she would like to switch doctors but felt bad and so kept visiting one that was not meeting her needs. She had been seeing the doctor for a few years and never felt they really connected. The doctor hadn’t done anything wrong, she admitted, but during visits she waited a long while, then felt rushed in the room. The office’s hours were tough for her and the staff wasn’t particularly friendly on the phone. It got me thinking about how I feel when a patient leaves my clinic.

Occasionally, a patient will leave my practice for somewhere else. I work in a big, busy practice where patients sometimes wait. They also never get turned away when sick, which is where the wait comes from on a busy day. For some, the trade off of being seen same day when sick is just not worth the wait on another day, which I understand. Sometimes, however, I can just feel that I am not connecting with a family. They rarely say this outright, but I can feel it.

I’d like all families to know that it’s okay to leave your doctor for another one. Really. We wish we could make everyone happy but know that we cannot. We might not see eye-to-eye or our style may be too harsh/soft/wishy-washy/you-name-it for you. The office might be too big, too busy, or have too limited of hours. In these cases, it’s best for both of us if you find someone who works better for you. Letting us know in a nice way why we didn’t meet your needs will help us get better. Not very many patients do this last part, but I am sincere when I say we need the feedback.

The best time to switch is when you are not sick and not at the last minute. Find another doctor by asking around for personal recommendations. Then check your insurance company to make sure your new office is covered. Finally, call your old doctor and ask for a “records release” meaning they send your records over to the new office so they will have all your important information. Do this a few weeks before you see the new doctor and confirm a few days before your visit that the records have been received. If you do not have the option of leaving an office then consider changing doctors within a practice. In my practice of 10, we all have “our own” patients who prefer to see one or two of us in particular.

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About Dr. Sara Connolly, Bundoo Medical Director

Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, is a Board Certified Pediatrician who practices in Palm Beach County, Florida. She completed her residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami, where she served as Chief Resident. She has a passion for child advocacy and has worked on the local, state, and national level to increase access to care for children. Her interests include nutrition, breastfeeding, and parenting skills.

Comments

  1. Dr. Sara I have seen this too, where patients will stick a doctor for years even though they don’t really like them, out of fear of offending them! I wonder if it is more common in small towns where everyone knows everybody? Either way, your point is right – move on if you don’t feel like you are connecting or getting the care that you want. Be your own best advocate!

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  2. We actually switched doctors not because of the pediatrician, whom I really liked, but because of the busy office itself and the location. Because the pediatrician sees so many kids, he probably didn’t even notice that we had switched. Now we go to an office, in the same association but closer to the house. The wait times are still HORRIBLE but I absolutely love the doctor. The one bonus of seeing a pediatrician in such a busy practice is the fact that we can always be seen the same day if needed and they provide after hour care hours.

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