A man stands between two doctors, between him and the left doctor is a broken heart, and between him and the right doctor is a new heart.

I Broke Up with My GI: The Dos and Don'ts of Switching Doctors

Over the years, I have visited numerous doctors seeking treatment for my ulcerative colitis. Through experience, I’ve learned that not all gastroenterologists (GI doctors) are created equally. If you are newly diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or not feeling totally comfortable with your current physician, then read on to learn what I did and did not do right when it comes to ending your time with a GI.

An uncomfortable examination

When I was first diagnosed at the age of 19, I hadn’t even heard of UC or IBD. But with a new diagnosis came a referral to a gastroenterologist. As this new doctor explained my disease, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable in the examination room. What was it about him that made me feel this way? After explaining my symptoms, he replied with the comment, “Well, hop up on the exam table and let me check.”

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Now, let me put this into context. The year was 1989 and few gastroenterologists practiced in my neck of the woods. In the foothills of Appalachia where I live, good medical care is challenging enough, but back in the late 80s, it was even more scarce.

With my compliant personality, I did as the doctor told me, and I wasn’t prepared for what happened next: a rectal examination. Yes, it was as if this doctor didn’t trust me when I explained about the mucous and bloody stool I was experiencing. Therefore, he had to check personally.

That left me gripped in fear and upset me so much that I couldn’t even pay attention to what he said afterwards.

In short, that was a waste of time because I never returned to him. As a sheltered, naïve kid (let’s be honest, at 19 I was a child.), I couldn’t handle getting a rectal exam again at another appointment. So, my colitis went untreated for a couple of years.

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Searching for a new gastroenterologist

When the flares got so bad that I couldn’t ignore them, I began another GI search. I was told about a new physician who had just set up a local independent practice. With a referral from my GP, I scheduled an appointment with this specialist. After sitting in the waiting area for about an hour, I finally got to meet this GI.

My first question to him was, “Will you be doing a rectal exam?” He assured me that he would not, and that immediately put me at ease.

Because I had not called and requested my records from the last GI’s office, I came to this first appointment empty-handed. But thankfully, this new physician was able to request and access my records.

Because my fears were put at ease during this first appointment, I continued my colitis treatment with this doctor. But after more than 15 years with him, I eventually became frustrated for various reasons. In 2011, I got bold enough to break up with my GI.

Breaking up with your physician

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about when it’s time to move on to a new physician. Keep in mind, everyone's needs are different but this is what makes sense for me and my body:

  • DO collect your medical records if you switch to a new provider. You do this by submitting a medical records request.
  • DON’T leave your current doctor until you find a new one. This ensures a seamless treatment plan for your body.
  • DO look for an in-network provider if you have health insurance.
  • DON’T remain with a physician who rushes through appointments.
  • DO trust your gut. If someone acts inappropriately or makes you feel uncomfortable, then it’s time to find someone else.
  • DON’T settle for someone who doesn’t listen or doesn’t answer all your questions.
  • DO ask friends or family for physician recommendations. Or if you search online, read patient reviews before scheduling.
  • DON’T cover-up or lie about your departure from a physician. Be open and transparent with constructive feedback.
  • DO look for someone who is interested in your overall well-being.
  • DON’T stay with a professional who no longer cares to prioritize your healthcare.
  • DO bring a new physician up-to-date with your past health care treatments.
  • DON’T remain with a provider with whom you don’t feel comfortable. In my opinion, doubt means “don’t.”
  • DO find someone who values your personal preferences about your healthcare.
  • DON’T continue with a doctor who forces medical treatments on you.
  • DO find someone who understands that YOU are the expert on your body.
  • DON’T select a doctor that ignores or dismisses your symptoms.
  • DO speak honestly about your current symptoms.
  • DON’T remain with a physician who overbooks, runs consistently late, and doesn’t value your time.
  • DO find someone who communicates well.
  • DON’T stay with a physician who “over-prescribes” medication.
  • DO find a physician who considers your finances.
  • DON’T stay with a provider if they act “unprofessional” such as someone making inappropriate comments, behaving inappropriately, asking questions that are personal or not about your health, passing judgment on your health decisions, etc.

Making a change

Ultimately, switching physicians isn’t an easy decision, but sometimes it’s necessary for both your physical and mental health. I left my last GI because I started dreading my appointments. This doctor always ran behind on time. It wouldn’t be unusual for me to sit 2 hours in the waiting area just to get called back into an examination room and wait another 30 minutes.

In addition, I felt like my last doctor didn’t prescribe treatments that were in my best interest. I found myself questioning why he wasn’t listening to me. Then, I began wondering whether his “treatment plan” was merely to keep me returning to his office. When I moved back to my hometown about 12 years ago, the move provided me the incentive to make a change and find a new specialist.

A happier patient

Today, I am much happier with my current GI. I love that if he’s running even 5 minutes behind schedule, he apologizes profusely. (I can tell from his reaction that being on time is important to him. As someone who works full-time and runs on a tight schedule, too, I appreciate that personality trait.)

In addition, I love that he checks off all the “Dos” that I have listed. As I made this list, I thought of him versus my last doctor. So, I guess you could say that my current GI inspired the “Dos” list.

The bottom line: Do your research and read reviews before making your final physician decision. You know yourself best, and your well-being is at stake. Like any relationship, your comfort and values are important. If someone doesn’t uphold those 2 points, then it’s time to break-up.

Do you have any doctor break-up stories you’d like to share with us? Please leave your story in the comment section.

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The InflammatoryBowelDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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