Can I Get a Good Doctor Please?
Many of us who have had IBS for years have suffered not only with our ongoing symptoms and lack of effective treatments, but also with doctors who seem uninformed, dismissive, or even uncaring. It can be disheartening to have our symptoms or concerns ignored or discounted by a healthcare professional. Many suffer for months or years before even getting a diagnosis of IBS, and even after diagnosis, the trial-and-error approach to finding treatment strategies that work is even more frustrating when you don’t have the support of a good doctor. As many who live with chronic conditions, we become experts in our disease and our bodies through our experience, but we still need help.
Looking for “the One”
In the dating world, some people suggest writing a list of characteristics for your ideal person. Perhaps we should use that advice for our healthcare professionals, too. Here’s my desired traits in a doctor:
- Treats me with respect, understanding that I am both the customer and the expert on what I’m experiencing
- Listens attentively
- Provides helpful information and helps me understand what’s happening in my body
- Provides treatment options (more than one) and discusses the benefits and risks of each
Ideally, I’d also like for the doctor to be covered by my insurance and have an office that is convenient for me to get to, but I am willing to travel a bit further or pay a bit more to get the kind of relationship with a healthcare professional that I want.
It’s not a fairytale
When I moved to Seattle several years ago, a friend of mine here suggested a naturopathic medicine practice near me. She had had a great experience with one of the doctors there and encouraged me to give them a call. I hadn’t had experience with a naturopath before, but there are quite a few in Seattle, as there’s a big university (Bastyr) that trains them in the city.
Bastyr University defines naturopathic medicine as “primary health care that emphasizes prevention and the self-healing process through the use of healthy living and natural therapies” and that they blend “the philosophy that nature is the most effective healer with current research on health.” Naturopaths are able to prescribe medications, but they also place a large emphasis on lifestyle approaches, including diet and exercise, and will recommend nutritional supplements and complementary approaches, too. Naturopathic medicine focuses on the underlying causes of disease, and they treat people as whole people, taking into account the physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors.
However, the most important difference to me is the time and attention the naturopaths at the clinic give me. They truly listen to my concerns and ask additional questions about my symptoms. We work together to find solutions and treatment options that work for me. And that’s key: it honestly feels like we are working together to best manage my health. Finally, I’ve found a partner in what can sometimes be a frustrating or frightening area, and I feel like I’m recognized as an equal partner. (As it should be.)
If at first you don't succeed...
Believe me, I totally understand if you're so frustrated with the care you've received from doctors in the past that you'd rather go it alone. Perhaps my story can give a little hope to those of you who are wondering if it's possible to find a doctor you like and trust. I would encourage you to keep trying. Researchers continue to uncover new clues about diseases like IBS, and new treatments will become available. While naturopathic medicine might not be right for everyone, I would encourage you to keep trying to find a healthcare professional you can work with.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?