Finding the Right Physician
Not every provider will share your treatment goals or ideas on how to tackle your symptoms. Each doctor has his or her own style, but it may not be what you are looking for, even if they come highly recommended by another fibromyalgia patient. So how do you determine if this new doctor will be the one for you? The initial visit can be intimidating or awkward, so take time to consider what you want from the doctor before your first appointment. Consider some suggestions from the experts:
Bring your records. Come prepared to your first visit with a list of your medications, doses, and medical records.
Find out if the doctor still treats fibromyalgia. Be aware that the “front office” may not speak the mind of the provider. In other words, if you call to ask them whether a particular doctor treats fibromyalgia, they may automatically say “yes.” On the first visit, you should ask the provider, “Will you accept me as a fibromyalgia patient? Are you comfortable with it? If patients ask the doctor in this way, they don’t have to feel rejected personally. They can feel the doctor rejected the disease,” says Robert Katz, M.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.
Do not set false expectations. Consider your general doctor as the “quarterback” in your treatment plan. “He isn’t supposed to be an expert in a medical condition, but should be the main resource who can sort out conditions and suggest other professionals,” says Don Uslan, M.A., M.B.A., L.M.H.C., a therapist in Seattle, WA. In a first visit, you can feel if the doctor is nice, compassionate, and respectful. Don’t expect a miracle cure.
What can I ask on the first visit? More than likely, you have a boatload of questions. If you go through an exhaustive list of symptoms, it could gobble up precious time without getting anything accomplished. A better approach is to write down your most important symptoms, questions, or concerns. Do not expect the doctor to address more than two or three. The rest can be discussed at future appointments.
Assess expectations. Upon leaving the first visit, consider how the appointment went and if you might be coming back for a second or third visit. Did the physician listen and hear you? Did he or she seem interested, honest, compassionate? Are you leaving the office feeling better about yourself?
Bad signs. “If you notice during the course of the visit that the doctor doesn’t give you time to talk or ask questions, doesn’t review your history or ask if you understand what is being said, that all counts against the doctor,” says Richard Podell, M.D., of the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Also, be careful that the physician doesn’t make generalized or bigoted statements about anything, but especially negative comments about fibromyalgia, such as ‘Fibromyalgia patients always. …’ That’s a sure sign of burnout.”
Be yourself. Try to relax. Overall, let the physician see you for who you are. Your pain is real. Your doctor may accept you, or you may reject him or her.