(for sake of simplicity, I’ve referred to the primary care provider as female, because I, for one, am one. Keep in mind there are amazing primary care providers who are male)
I’ve said it to my patients and I’ll say it here as well: finding the right provider is especially crucial when it comes to two providers of medical care: your primary care doctor and your therapist.
It makes logical sense. Patients tend to see these doctors most, more than any other specialty.
Now, I can’t speak for therapy, because it’s not my field. While I do engage in a lot of one-on-one guidance with my patients -discussing psychiatric issues such as depression and anxiety on a regular basis – I also find that establishing care with a specialist in that particular field is priceless, especially when you land the right one.
But primary care – well, that’s a field I can weigh in on, and comfortably at that. Because, in case you haven’t noticed, I practice it.
Central Station of Medical Care.
I like to think of a primary care doctor as the central station of medical care.
She is the keeper of all your conditions. All your medications. Your allergies, social history, and life events. And by that, I don’t mean that she actually physically ‘keeps them’, but that they’re handy in her chart, a place where she puts it all together – in a virtual space – and then retrieves it, when needed, to make your visit work.
The bare bones of it all is quite sturdy: your building blocks, after all, don’t normally change. But it’s the fluff around it all – the substance of your visits – that are fluid, and constantly evolve. A walk in the park may lead to a fall, or a mole may have recently grown. Your nose may be snotty, a cough may not relent, or maybe a new pain in the chest raises suspicion.
She’ll always help you out – your primary care doctor – because she knows who you are. And it’s that bare bone piece that makes all the difference in the world. She knows you, and it helps her decide if there’s cause for alarm, or whether and which medications work best. It helps to put things in perspective, too, when your doc knows the baseline you – because she can then take the step back that’s necessary often to make proper treatment decisions. Or discuss treatment options with you. It helps to be able to look at the picture as a whole. And to know you.
Always There for You.
She will see you when you’re down, often at a phone call’s notice. Or when you’re sick.
Even when you’re healthy, the guard is there to see you. Take your annual visit, for example, when all you need are the checkmarks filled out on your work form. Or the healthy screens. Or a quick talk on a rash. Or that breakdown you had just the other day. It’s ok to share with her – she keeps your secrets safe. She knows all that goes on with your care – organizing together the pieces of your puzzle, tucking them all in, keeping them organized and safely tucked away.
Then, she makes the decision along with you. Together. Your castle’s guard and you.
Let’s call her your knight. She may not always be in shining armor; after all, there’s not always enough time in the day to get that suit polished. She stands over your castle, keeping guard, and – picture the best of the bunch, like Game of Thrones caliber – ready for battle at any moment’s notice. Her duty is to keep you healthy. And safe.
It’s all built into the oath she’s sworn, when taking that pledge into medicine – The Hippocratic Oath.
She protects your establishment, and that castle is your body and soul. It’s up to her to hold some of the necessary talks with you – to review those topics that matter. She may discuss things like:
Why you shouldn’t smoke.
Why you need a certain screening test.
Why you should take a medication. Or shouldn’t.
Why you should be seeing her more often in the coming year.
Who’s the Boss?
Ultimately, when push comes to shove, you’re the boss. She’s the loyal adviser of the interaction.
You may listen to her side, to her reasoning, and mull things over. But at the end of the matter, you’re the one going home, and it’s up to you to make that final decision. Because it’s your life, and you’re the one who’s in control.
It’s a relationship built on mutual respect, and, once in place, is typically sealed in for a lifetime.
Being that I practice in the field of primary care, I can confidently say that I’m acquainted with finer details that make patient-doctor relationships work. Like other relationships in your life, you need a good match. There needs to be trust, and mutual understanding. There needs to be respect from either side.
As the patient, you need to make decisions. And understand. Have open discussions.
Always leave the office understanding the plan. Always.
If you’re still out there, trying to find the right guard for your castle, don’t give up. There is a knight somewhere out there for you. Keep looking – you’ll know when you’ve stumbled upon just the right one.
And, mark my words, when you walk in, she’ll be greeting you with a warm, inviting smile.