Choosing a Medical Provider

Recently I found myself in the position of choosing a new primary care provider after many years. I decided it might be helpful to share about how I navigate finding and interacting with practitioners that I am considering working with. By practitioners I mean both allopathic and “alternative/holistic,” however this blog post is specifically about my experience finding someone in the allopathic medical world. Especially if you or someone you love has been harmed by some branch of medicine or healthcare, you know how hard it is to trust any of it or anyone associated with it going forward. The purpose of this post is to share how I have chosen to navigate in the wake of harm.

Photo: Jon Tyson via Unsplash
You decide

I have said before that I tend to keep my interactions with the medical system and medical providers to a minimum, and only under specific circumstances. After my experience with SSRI drugs this is especially true of allopathic medicine. However for me it applies to other systems of medicine and healthcare as well. Each one of us gets to decide for ourselves what sorts of interactions–if any–we want to have with the medical/health system(s), under exactly what circumstances, and with whom specifically. It’s wonderful that we have this agency! It’s important to me to have “people” I trust so that in the event I find myself under one of those certain specific circumstances, I am not also scrambling to find someone to help support me in a way I will be comfortable with.

Earlier this year my primary care provider of many years–the one who was supportive of me being completely in control of my own Celexa taper–retired. Though I hadn’t seen her in several years, this felt like a real loss because I trusted her to work with me on my terms if I ever felt like I needed her support with anything. I knew I wanted to find somebody new, for the sake of having trusted “people.”

Where to start

I started by talking to like-minded friends and family about their providers. I have found that this can be a good place to start when it comes to finding someone who will be willing to work with me on my terms. When a loved one told me about her new nurse-practitioner (NP) being genuinely interested in hearing about how she was using herbs to support her body, I thought that was a good sign and I made an appointment.

I had a few weeks of lead time before my appointment, which allowed me to make sure I was calm, clear-headed, and prepared. I went into the appointment knowing what I wanted to communicate, and trusting that I could respectfully stand my own ground while also treating the NP like we are on the same team. Below is what specifically I needed her to know. Your specifics will vary. What’s important is that you get clear with yourself ahead of time if you can.

What I made sure to communicate
  • I have been harmed by allopathic medicine in the past, and as a result I interact with the conventional medical system very minimally
  • I’m healing myself from that injury, and I will always trust myself more than anyone else
  • I do a lot holistically, and simply by virtue of the way I now live, to support my health and wellbeing
  • I will almost certainly try everything else I can first, before considering a procedure or pharmaceutical intervention
  • I am unlikely to want or accept the “routine health screenings” that will be recommended as I get older
  • I am unlikely to accept the “standard of care” in most situations
  • I like to have a team of trusted people from different orientations and backgrounds, but I will never outsource my agency or my own expertise about myself
  • I will likely not see or communicate with you very often

And then I asked point blank if she could work with me on my terms. If she had said no, I would have thanked her for her time and made an appointment with someone else. If she had responded to anything I said in a way that made me feel uncomfortable I would have thanked her for her time and made an appointment with someone else. I would have kept making appointments with new people until I found someone I felt good about. She turned out to be very open and receptive, and we had a really good conversation about the shortcomings of the allopathic medical system and the importance of all continuing to learn from each other. 

Key takeaways

What I always keep in mind when interacting with a provider:

  • Any provider is a human being before they’re anything else
  • When I remember their humanity and treat them accordingly, they are more likely to do the same in kind
  • I can communicate my needs clearly, effectively, and calmly
  • I can set any boundaries I need to keep myself safe
  • I can say “no” to anything I’m uncomfortable with
  • I am the ultimate authority on what’s right for me

Being certain of my needs and certain of my boundaries allowed me to really show up for myself in this situation. It also allowed my new NP to show up for me differently and better than she might have otherwise. Everybody “wins,” as it were.

Ever forward

Maybe you are at a place on your journey where you are feeling uncertain about what your needs and boundaries are. Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of trying to figure them out. That’s okay. Start by just sitting with the uncertainty. Remember that it’s your choice whether or not to work with anyone outside of yourself. Know that if you do choose to work with any kind of provider, you are worthy of a relationship with them that you feel genuinely good about. Know that you are capable of finding your way forward with empowerment and agency.

Disclaimer: this post is for informational purposes only and shall not be construed as medical or personal advice. You are always your own best expert, and you are always in the best position to discern what’s right for you given your personal circumstances and needs.