How to Become YOUR Own Advocate with Your Dermatologist

Finding the right doctor that you feel comfortable with, and trust is very important. Sometimes that be can a challenge.

When was I referred to a dermatologist?

I recall when I was pregnant with my second child, my eczema was the worst it had been in my adult life. At that point, I had already been living with atopic dermatitis for 28 years. My hands were very swollen with blisters and cracks on my fingertips and palms. There was one time I found myself in the OBGYN triage. The resident seeing me for a matter completely unrelated to my eczema, commented on my eczema. She was concerned seeing skin in such a state. As bad as it was, I was not really concerned about it. She then sent a referral to the dermatology department of the hospital. I managed to be seen by one of the “top” doctors, well known across the city.

How the doctor make me feel?

Family members and friends who found out that I was now a patient of this doctor were shocked that I was taken under his care. Since my first appointment, I never felt comfortable seeing this doctor. We began a new treatment plan, and I kept going to my follow up appointments in the hopes that maybe this doctor could help me get my eczema to a better place.

What did he say about my eczema?

With each appointment, I would leave the hospital feeling a bit more discouraged. It was after one appointment where the doctor had said to the resident in the room, “you think this looks bad, in the past her face was so red, it would stop traffic.” I hadn’t really processed what I had heard, I just knew that the words felt hurtful and wrong. It wasn’t until after I left the hospital and was telling my husband about the appointment, that I was able to process the words said to me, I broke down in tears.

Do I like my current dermatologist?

After that, I knew it was time for me to find a new dermatologist. I spoke with my family doctor about my experience, and he referred me to a new dermatologist. Thank God my new dermatologist, is someone who sees me as individual beyond the symptoms on my skin. He understands my lifestyle and day-to-day living and really strives to give me a treatment plan that best suits my needs. I am very grateful to my dermatologist, for getting me to a place where my skin is the best it’s been my entire life.

What have I learned?

Here are some tips that I have learned from my experience of finding the dermatologist that was the right fit for me.

  • Tip #1: BEFORE starting a new treatment plan ask lots of questions – side effects, long/short term plan, efficacy, cost, time commitment.
  • Tip #2: Share your concerns if there are any. Sharing your concerns beforehand, will help later on if in fact those concerns do materialize.
  • Tip #3: Ask to doctor for time to think about it (this goes for both doctor and patient). Sometimes when we are under pressure and fueled with emotions, we may say things that we can later regret.
  • Tip #4: If it’s not working, speak from a place of "I" like “I am feeling…” This makes it less about the doctor, and more about you. In which case, it will be hard for the doctor to challenge you on that. (REMEMBER: Yes, the doctor understands the human body and medications on a molecular level in ways that we patients may not understand. However, nobody knows better than YOURSELF what YOUR body is experiencing.)
  • Tip #5: Some people like to bring a family member or close friend with them to appointments to help advocate for them when it gets too hard.
  • Tip #6: Get a second opinion. Talk to your family doctor, or other health care provider. Perhaps it is time to have your family doctor refer you to a new dermatologist. Ultimately, you want to have a doctor that you trust and feel has YOUR bests interest in mind – providing you with the best care for YOU! Because treating atopic dermatitis is so unique to each individual.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The 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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