If you live with diabetes, you've most likely spent your share of time in doctor's offices, various healthcare clinics, urgent care, quite possibly the emergency room and even the hospital... On the phone with healthcare providers, pharmacies, medical supply companies, etc since the moment of diagnosis. There is no shortage of this kind of time-sucking "stuff" once diabetes comes into the picture. It just becomes part of our life, for better or worse...
I care for myself in a holistic way as much as possible. Only spending time at my endocrinology office about every three months and seeing my functional medicine doctor who practices out of a family medicine clinic in town every so often. The rest of my time is spent with various body workers, my classical homeopath, acupuncturist, etc.
I get kind of used to being in holistic care practices brimming with wise and caring practitioners who are truly devoted to their job and patients. Many of them do not have a receptionist so I'm just dealing with the kind and warm practitioner the entire visit. Along with truly feeling cared for, some of them even remember my pets and family members names! They are truly engaged and enthusiastic members on my holistic journey to health, cheering for me every step of the way. It feels amazing! And is a big part of my success and well-being.
As a result, I kind of forget about how in regular mainstream western clinics this kind of care is not always the case... Yet, oh how quickly I was reminded of this today. I had an appointment at my endocrinology clinic. My name was called by the most cold and least friendly medical assistant that I've encountered for a while.
There was no smile, warmth, care or interest in me. She was simply performing the duties of her job in the most rote way possible, taking my weight and blood pressure and reviewing medications. We had a disagreement about the data available she should download from my continuous glucose meter (CGM) and blood glucose meter and she was not willing to pull up my weight history. The short amount of time I spent with her was not pleasant and even detracted a little bit from the good mood I was in.
I felt slightly agitated until the new provider came in who was awesome and quite possibly the most real practitioner (at a regular doctor's office) I have ever met. Her warmth allowed me to move on from the negative experience of the medical assistant devoid of any joy in her spirit.
**A Short Public Service Announcement: Seriously, if you hate your job and work with the public, do us ALL a favor and quit... We won't mind. We would actually LIKE it. A LOT!! Get a job in a mailroom sorting envelopes or something where you are dealing with paper not people. Let the individuals who actually like and genuinely care about people take your job. Okay, back to the article... :)
Well, unfortunately I had another negative experience at a speciality clinic several weeks ago. Nine years ago I was diagnosed with a new health condition in addition to diabetes and several others. It is one I deal with the best I can. Originally I was put on a medication but it gave me such severe side effects I decided not to take it after a very short while. I control my condition in natural ways, making sure to get adequate rest so as not to experience a flare-up.
Recently after meeting someone in person with the same condition (for the very first time in my life!) and joining a few groups on Facebook, I've learned so much -- more than I ever did by the diagnosing doctor nine years ago. I really do think there is an immense amount to gain from interacting with other patients who live with the same health condition/s we do in online forums.
To learn even more about my particular case, I decided to schedule an appointment with a specialist. I was hoping to understand a little better what symptoms I have are related to this condition and which are not. The nurse who did an extensive intake was okay friendly. And while not particularly warm, she at least was not rude.
After the intake, a large man stepped in the room with a distinct, odd (unpleasant) smell. He was the doctor, specializing in the way this part of the body functions. He presented me with attitude from the get go, sternly asking why I was there to see him. My answer of wanting to know more about my condition was not satisfactory to him.
I told him I feel tired and want to know if it was because of x condition. I mentioned having Type 1 diabetes or Hashimoto's thyroid condition, both of which I have, can make someone feel tired. I wanted to differentiate the symptoms I feel between the conditions if possible.
He was so irritable saying, "Cancer can make someone tired or their thyroid! Why are you here?! I'm
Taking notes into my phone is something I often do in healthcare appointments. I have never had a provider respond this way. While I can understand if he thought I was using my phone in a leisurely way (that is rude!), but give the patient the benefit of the doubt! Geez! Don't assume the worst about us. And maybe put 2 + 2 together. If a patient seems astute and really involved in her care, she is probably not the sort of person who would start playing a game or go on Facebook during an appointment?!!? Just a hunch....
He then said that at 4:15pm (this was less than 15 minutes away) he had a meeting to attend. And that he did NOT have time for an HOUR to discuss all of my questions. At this point, fed up with his rudeness, (I kid you not -- this really happened!!), I leaned my head and upper body in toward him while my eyes got extremely focused and intense. I said in the most stern and grounded voice... "I am NOT like other patients you see. I have lived with Type 1 diabetes for 27 years and work as a patient advocate and writer."
Perhaps you had to be there. But with my tone, non verbals and words, I meant business. There was no longer any question that his downright despicable demeanor should continue with me one minute longer. I demanded respect from him and that he the expert, answer my prepared list of questions.
Wouldn't you know... From that time on he might have still smelled, but at least he changed his tune and took off his cranky arrogant cap of ultimate lameness. The appointment ended (yes, he went 10 minutes over of when he originally said he had to end! Woohoo?!) and he printed information for me saying I could call him!? I was a little stunned and confused. Quite a change of events, huh?
He also said I do not meet the diagnostic criteria for the diagnosis I was given nine years ago and that I may not even have it! What?! That was so crazy to hear! I can go in for more testing which is quite extensive to confirm one way or another, but at this point I am not sure it's worth it. As always, I will discuss with my holistic care team what the best course of action is and if it makes sense to have a definitive diagnosis.
Can you believe this doctor?? Wow! He was really rude. I think it is important we stand up for ourselves. And in situations where we do not feel well enough (I know feeling unwell really strips me of my confidence) or are unable to advocate for ourselves for whatever reason, that we know we have the right to call back and speak with the clinic manager. I have done this a few times and it helps me move on from the frustrating situation and let it go.
Diabetes and our health is hard enough without having to get beat up emotionally and not have our needs met by healthcare providers who should be providing us with care to HELP us. I learned in this appointment that if you stand up for yourself like you mean it that it might just make a difference in the outcome. At least for me this day it did. I was in shock for a few weeks that I stood up for myself in such an assertive way. I am not sure I will ever see this provider again (one not so smelly would be nice too...), but at least I stood my ground and took care of myself. And that felt damn great!
Have you ever had a rude experience with a doctor or healthcare provider? How did you respond? I know it takes courage, but I hope you will speak up and advocate for yourself should you ever encounter a doctor who decides to leave their bedside manner at the curb.
In Peace and Wellness,
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