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Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid to Find a New Rheumatologist

People with psoriatic arthritis often face significant delays in diagnosis. Once you get that diagnosis from a rheumatologist, it's tempting to stay with them for the long haul. And sometimes, it's a great decision to stick around. But a bad or even "meh" patient-doctor relationship can hurt your care.

As a patient, you deserve to feel respected, heard, and know you're in the best hands. But if you dread seeing your doctor and feel like you're no longer receiving the best care, it's okay to find a new physician.

Deciding to see a new doctor is a personal decision.

There are so many reasons why you might consider it's time for a change; I want to reassure you it's okay to do so. Sometimes, doctors leave or retire, and you don't have a choice. Or you might've liked the care you were provided at first, but over time found it's lacking or you don't feel like you can speak up.

You may even discover there's another doctor who might provide better care, and you want to start seeing them. Even if you know it's time to make a change, it can be scary to find a new rheumatologist. I know firsthand. I was very hesitant to switch doctors, but almost every time I have, it has brought better care.

Some doctors are a better fit than others.

I wouldn't have gotten my PsA diagnosis in the first place if I hadn't switched doctors. While my first rheumatologist knew I had some form of juvenile arthritis, he couldn't identify it. I stuck with him for years - he was a great doctor, but something wasn't clicking.

One day, a doctor who filled in for him instantly diagnosed me. He caught onto my unusual symptoms, family history of psoriasis, and nail psoriasis that the other one couldn't make sense of. Naturally, he became my doctor moving forward.

I faced a similar situation when I had to go from pediatric care to adult care a couple of years later. The first doctor I saw wasn't a good fit; he disagreed with the care plan I was thriving on and made me feel bad for seeking help. It was clear I shouldn't go back to him, but I was nervous about seeing a new doctor after him.

Once I flared, I felt I had no choice and bit the bullet. I was pleasantly surprised that my next doctor was so lovely - identifying my specific traits, hard-to-find swelling, and even newly appearing pits in my fingernails. It restored my faith and made it easier to transition to a new doctor after she retired.

Finding a new doctor

When it's time to see a new doctor, for one reason or another, there are many ways to find a new one. Sometimes, your rheumatologist can refer you to another one in their practice. This is probably the most common way to see a new doctor, especially if they're retiring or leaving the practice.

Sometimes, this will happen if they realize their colleague has more expertise in PsA. When seeking a second opinion or trying a new practice, I find hospital "find a doctor" features and review websites helpful. I can appreciate the physicians' reviews, but I especially appreciate when those sites list clinician interests.

No hard feelings.

Finding a rheumatologist with a specific interest in PsA is a great start, and I have had great luck with that method.

On a final note, a good doctor won't be insulted. My first rheumatologist understood why I switched and wished me all the best. We're all humans, and they know there are many reasons patients need to make a change. So feel confident in your decision, and never settle with a doctor you feel uncomfortable or unsatisfied with.

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