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Should You Fire Your Rheumatologist

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Have you stayed with a rheumatologist who disrespected you, because you were afraid to make a change? Has a rheumatologist refused to listen to your complaints of pain?  Or has said doctor treated you like you were wasting his or her time? If so, it may be time to fire your rheumatologist.

For 24 years, doctors treated my RA with Enbrel. It was an excellent medication for me until a couple years ago.   The medication effectively stopped the swelling and inflammation in my body and eliminated most of my pain.   My last rheumatologist and I had a long and pleasant relationship until 3 years ago. 

Covid hit and during my first office visit of the year, he began with, “Did you get your Covid vaccination?” 

I responded that I was on a waiting list to be scheduled, per my county of residence.  This did not please him.

Blatant Disrespect

The doctor/patient relationship continued going south, as I told him Covid gave me time to write an e-book about RA. I could see he struggled to control himself as he turned away, almost rolling his eyes.  This man knew I was a writer by profession.  Yet he clearly disrespected my efforts without asking any questions or possessing any knowledge about my project or my ability as a researcher and medical writer. I realized it was time to fire my rheumatologist.

Sarcasm Does Not Become a Physician

Several years ago, my granddaughter was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (A/S), and I told my rheumatologist about it.  I wondered if A/S explained some of the unusual pains I’ve dealt with over the last couple of years.  He said, “Well, if you do have it, what do you expect me to do about it? You are already taking Enbrel.”

This doctor wasn’t interested in my complaints of pain and chose sarcasm instead of a helpful answer. Over the last 3 years, I told him of new symptoms that didn’t sound like rheumatoid arthritis issues to me.  His response was always, “It’s osteo-arthritis.”

Example of Medical Gaslighting

When I awoke one morning with acute pain in my hip, I knew my rheumatologist would blame it on osteo-arthritis.  I had become used to his kind of medical gaslighting.  A few hours later, I needed a cane to walk.  I made an appointment with an orthopedist a friend recommended.  The pain worsened, and I walked continually with a cane.

My next rheumatology appointment arrived first, and I told the doctor about the hip issue.  I told him that I made an orthopedic appointment because I assumed he would tell me, as he usually did, that the hip pain could not be RA.  He nodded his head in agreement.

Time to Fire the Rheumatologist

The orthopedist X-rayed the hip and showed me that the inflammation was in the synovial lining around the joint. It was clearly rheumatoid, not an osteo problem.  That very day, I made an appointment with a new rheumatologist. 

It’s a blessing to meet a rheumatologist who asks questions and listens to my responses!  What a relief! I knew he wouldn’t dismiss my complaints of pain in places where RA isn’t likely to hit!  He ordered X-Rays and more lab tests to determine what may or may not be causing my issues.  The icing on the cake is that his staff is very friendly, unlike the previous place!

Don’t Fear Necessary Changes

Build a good relationship with your rheumatologist.  Make certain that effort works both ways.  Explain your symptoms. Respectfully listen to and cooperate with his or her professional opinions and expertise, or you won’t receive the help you need. But if it becomes necessary to fire your rheumatologist, then do so.

Don’t Second-Guess Yourself if You Need to Fire Your Rheumatologist

I recommend strongly that you shouldn’t second-guess yourself when you decide to fire your rheumatologist. Don’t fear changing specialists, if you believe your reasons are sound.

One of the ways I felt disrespected by the previous rheumatologist was his dismissal of my questions and concerns.  Remember that you are paying this person. The least he or she can do is treat you pleasantly and respectfully and answer your questions.  I believe I can ask my new rheumatologist any reasonable question and receive a reasonable reply, based on his expertise. That’s all any of us need.

We RA warriors struggle enough with this disease.  We certainly don’t need to dread visiting the professional who is supposed to be helping us.

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