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Cheers to My New Rheumatologist

Meeting with a new rheumatologist

Blessings and cheers to my new rheumatologist! After many years of treatment for RA by another specialist, I reached my limit!  In early May, I visited a new rheumatologist.  This gentleman appeared friendly and pleasant and open to hearing what I had to say.  He seemed interested in my own observations that after 24 years, Enbrel was no longer doing its job.  The doctor listened as I described pain that did not seem consistent in my mind with rheumatoid arthritis. Most importantly, he treated me with respect and didn’t rush the appointment.

A Rheumatologist Who Cares

The doctor asked questions and actually listened to my answers!  I didn’t expect this!

I answered him as honestly as I could without getting whiny or too wordy about my complaints.  When I mentioned that I am a writer and am currently working on a second e-book about RA, he asked me about the first one.   That surprised me, because I didn’t expect a positive response.  The previous doctor had never shown interest in my work, despite knowing that I’m not an amateur at this.

In short, the new doctor treated me respectfully about my work, did not disparage my efforts, listened carefully about my complaints of unusual pain, and made me feel validated.  I left the appointment with both lab and X-ray orders.

A New Diagnosis

Fast forward a month, and a second visit with the new rheumatologist occurred a few days ago.  A new diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis was added to my existing rheumatoid disease, along with a conversation about medications and plans for future treatment. The man was straight-forward, discussed psoriatic arthritis and pointed out clear examples of PsA on my fingernails.

What Goes Around Comes Around?

What I found interesting was that in 1977 at age 34, I was first diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (PsA). Several months later, the doctor changed the diagnosis to seronegative rheumatoid arthritis. I didn’t have computer or internet access in those days and was fairly ignorant about both diseases. When I began exhibiting PsA symptoms in 2022, I knew something had changed, but I still wasn’t certain. What I did know was that certain symptoms did not fit RA.

My former rheumatologist wasn’t interested. He felt that the drug I take should take care of any symptoms for whatever autoimmune disease I had, clearly showing me that he wasn’t going to help. To say I am thrilled to finally have a doctor who is actively engaged in my case and wants to help me would be an understatement.

My visit with the new rheumatologist ended, and I left his office feeling hope for a future with less pain and actually liking and respecting this man.  That’s all any patient should ask of a physician!

How to Know if You Need a New Rheumatologist

Doctors are human. They like and dislike patients, just as we like and dislike them. The problem arises when they forget that they should work as something of a team with their patients.

Because the rheumatologist should become an important part of helping us deal with this horrible disease, the relationship must be built over time with mutual respect. Changing doctors frequently makes it difficult for a new rheumatologist to trace a pattern of symptoms and get to know the patient. So I don’t believe in “doctor-hopping.” However, we all know that sometimes, a change is unavoidable, as it was in my case.

Following are 5 reasons why you may need a new rheumatologist:

You Feel Disrespected

As a reasonably intelligent woman, I sometimes try to carry on a conversation on a particular subject with a physician. But I have known a couple of rheumatologists who clearly felt my opinion, or educating me about a particular subject, wasn’t worth their time. I admit I was taken aback when I informed my last rheumatologist that I was writing a book about RA from a patient’s perspective. The expression on his face said it all! As he turned his head away from me, I could see him beginning to roll his eyes.

That was total disrespect. He didn’t say a word. He did not ask me what I was writing or show any interest at all. Instead, he clearly dismissed my professional effort as unimportant.

If a physician treats you or something you say as unimportant, that might be a red flag. I took it personally but for someone else, a different trigger might encourage you to change doctors.

If any medical professional should touch you inappropriately or make suggestive comments, get out of that office at once and report it!

If the Doctor Doesn’t Listen, You May Need a New Rheumatologist

Have you ever sat in a doctor’s office and tried to explain how you felt, what symptoms you experienced, only to realize the doctor wasn’t listening? It makes you feel unimportant and dismissed. No one deserves that. This may be the time for you to make a change.

His/Her Treatment Isn’t Helping

When my first rheumatologist in 1977 told me she didn’t have any treatments to offer me after I had failed to improve on the various pills she had given me, I knew it was time to move on. She was a nice person, but I needed help with pain and swelling.

If your rheumatologist isn’t providing the treatment you need, it may be time to look further for help.

If The Doctor Repeatedly Rushes You, It’s Time for a New Rheumatologist

When I first moved to Florida 22 years ago, the first rheumatologist I found came highly recommended by 2 patients. Yet I found him to be a joke. His nurse was programmed and often offered her own unsolicited medical opinion. When the man himself entered the room, every single time, he waltzed in looking at his watch. During his very short verbal exchange with me, he continued to glance at his wrist to check the time. His exam consisted of holding my hands and looking at my fingers and wrists. Occasionally, he squeezed a knee.

On the third or fourth office visit when he looked at his watch, I finally worked up the courage to ask him if I was keeping him from something. He responded that he didn’t want to miss his afternoon tee time. That was my cue to find a new rheumatologist!

The Doctor’s Office Staff Offers Sarcasm & Rudeness to Patients

Most medical offices expect and get professional behavior from their support staff. But there are exceptions. Have you ever tried to check-in for an appointment while 2 employees argue with each other? Not a good look, and can’t be what the doctor wants the patient to see.

For several years, my last rheumatologist practiced in a group setting with other doctors. The office staff was fairly large. If the receptionist went to lunch, one of the others would need to get up and come to her desk to check in a patients. More than once, I encountered a woman who made it clear that I was bothering her by checking in or out at that time. Very unfriendly! While the office environment did improve over time, I remember it all too well.

When Change Becomes Necessary

Sometimes, a change is necessary to lower your stress level and to create a healthy working relationship between you and the specialist whose help is crucial in managing your disease. Most of us want to feel comfortable as we communicate with our doctor. If we find we must deal with disrespect, lack of interest, a doctor who clearly wants to be elsewhere or whose treatment simply isn’t helping our disease, then it may be time to find a new rheumatologist.

If you know your body and your disease, try not to allow anyone to treat you as “less than.”

1 thought on “Cheers to My New Rheumatologist”

  1. Such a great article….I hope you share your articles with the new doctor. I agree if you feel you are being herded through the cattle shute….then it’s time to change. Blessedly I love my doctor and the ones that have been there in the past. While they have moved on, I’ve stayed with the same office. If ever anything changes, I would move on. Great job Carol!!!

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