“Hello, I need to cancel my appointment with you because you are no longer my doctor.” Yep, that is exactly what I told members of my medical team recently. Actually, I said those words and typed them. We have already discussed my Type A/neurotic tendencies, so it should come as no surprise that I wanted to be certain my point was made. It was very important to me that my doctors knew they were being fired. I mean really, if they didn’t what’s the point, right? So, the best way to do that, in my opinion, was to send the same message twice using two different forms of communication. I know what you’re thinking…genius! Yes it is friends, yes it is.
Now, before I continue, allow me to apologize for my 20+ day absence. As you know, I have been having a rough go with my Crohn’s these past few months. Also, I recently fractured my elbow. For you new readers, yes, that is totally a thing…it hurts worse than child birth. As you can imagine, trying to type with a fractured elbow has been VERY difficult. While I have a very high tolerance for pain…something about that elbow made me such a weenie! Shortly after my last post, my elbow became so swollen that you could no longer see that I had an elbow. My entire arm looked the same size from my shoulder to my wrist…QUITE FREAKY given my very slender frame. Apparently that was my body’s way of saying “HEY STUPID, YOU ARE USING THIS FRACTURED ARM TOO MUCH!” Well, I received the message loud and clear and took a quick break.
So, once I heard my arm demanding to be rested, I stopped using it unless absolutely necessary. Friends, you have no idea how difficult that was. I challenge you to force yourself to not use one of your arms for an hour. While initially I celebrated that I did not injure my dominate hand, I am now convinced that I was born left handed but my parents forced me to use my right hand. Being unable to use my left arm has shown me that I LITERALLY use it for everything except writing. So, I have been lost friends. Seriously, I haven’t put my hair in a ponytail in over 15 days because I couldn’t lift my hand up into the air. But, thank you for your patience and emails to check in on me. I am alive…just figuring out this one arm blogging situation. So back to it.
I don’t know about you, but to me, there is nothing worse than trying to end a relationship, of any kind, with a person unable to understand that is what’s happening. That seriously grinds my gears. While recently preparing to end my relationship with members of my medical team, I was reminded of when I broke up with a boyfriend at 14. Scared to hurt my then boyfriend’s feelings, I thought I would call him to break up rather than do it face to face. For some reason, a phone call seemed like the most delicate option…geesh. In my mind, I promised to let him down easy and choose my words very carefully. So, heart racing, I dialed his number and when he answered I softly said, “um, so listen, you are a nice guy and will make someone very happy one day. But, I am not happy so I think you should date someone else. Goodbye.” To me, it was pretty clear that I was ending the relationship. Now, before you get all Judgy McJudgerson, remember I was 14 people. But, even at 14, I knew exactly what I wanted and it definitely was not him. So, that relationship needed to end.
Well friends, to my surprise, the boy showed up at my house hours later with flowers to “show me just how happy he could make me”. He simply did not get that the relationship was over. We were having a communication failure. While I thought I was being clear, the message was flying over his head. But, no worries, I moved to plan B…brutal honesty. If I recall vividly, the conversation went something like “so listen, I don’t like you, never really did and we are done. Take your flowers because they will just die with me. But, I am actually glad you brought them…they confirm exactly why I need to dump you. You clearly don’t get me…I hate all things nature. So, good luck in life man.” In case you are wondering, he got the hint after that.
I can say without hesitation that the breakup at 14 taught me a valuable lesson. It taught me that some words, while very difficult to say, need to be said so everyone involved can move on. I like to think that my 35 year old self would not make the same mistake as my 14 year old self when communicating difficult messages…but honestly I’d be kidding myself. While I have learned tact, I still treat difficult messages like a band-aid…I just go for it. All because of that breakup at 14. That breakup conversation made me vow to always be painfully clear of my wants and needs, and to leave very little room for confusion. So, to everyone that has received swift and harsh words from me at any point, you have my boyfriend at 14 to thank for that. Because of his inability to understand what was being conveyed, you now get the unfiltered message to ensure there is no confusion about what I’m saying.
So, when it came time to fire my doctors, I did it in two ways to ensure there was no confusion that I was ending the relationship. First I sent a one sentence email that read “Hello, I need to cancel my appointment with you because you are no longer my doctor”. I then called the office and said the exact same thing for added measure. Like everything I experience, I have a few lessons learned to share with you:
- Be aware that you as the patient can end the relationship with the doctor when you decide. I know this seems like information everyone should know, but not everyone does. See, somewhere along the way we are taught that we must trust these doctors and stay with them despite how bad we are treated or how bad we are ignored. Somewhere along the way we become convinced that we as the patient have no power. Well friends, I am here to tell you that is false. As the patient, you actually hold all the cards. If you do not like the level of service you are receiving, end the relationship!
- Before you fire your doctor, get a refill on all necessary prescriptions. This is critical if you have not quite settled on a replacement doctor. But, even if you have, it could take time before you are able to see them or get refills on your meds so you want to ensure there is no gap in your medication;
- Obtain copies of your medical records. This will be very helpful once you select a new doctor. After you have identified a potential new doctor, you can send them your records in advance of your first visit, which will make for a more meaningful visit. This is particularly true if your health record is very complicated like mine;
- When you fire your doctor, make sure you have a replacement in place. It would be a great idea to have already met with your new doctor and have follow up appointments scheduled before you fire your current doctor. No one likes to be fired, so when you end the relationship make sure you are completely done…because there usually is no going back;
- Keep the termination conversation simple. While it would feel good to tell the doctor off and belittle them, there really is no point. If asked, I believe it is important to tell them why you are ending the relationship. But, it is rare for a doctor to ask. So, simply end the relationship and move on. Taking the termination conversation as a opportunity to belittle the doctor, in my opinion, makes you no better than them.
Never forget that you as the patient ultimately run the medical team. You choose the players, and when it is time for them leave. I will admit that somewhere along the way I myself forgot this…but it won’t happen again.