If you have COPD it is especially important for you to have the right physician. As with any chronic health condition, you will, hopefully, be working with your doctor for a long period of time. So, how do you find the right doc for you?
"Jane, if one of your patients just told you what you told me, what would you suggest they do?"
She had me. My best friend, a nurse, had turned the tables on me as only a close, caring friend can - and should - do.
I said nothing.
"Well?" She asked again.
I looked down and quietly said, "I guess I need to find a new doc."
At the time, I was having symptoms - serious clinical symptoms - related to a significant family history of cardiovascular disease. In spite of the questions and concerns I voiced, my long time physician was not recognizing nor treating these symptoms. Frankly, he just didn't seem to get it. I was feeling more and more misunderstood, and to put it bluntly, disregarded.
It was time for a change. First and foremost, I needed the proper diagnosis. Next, I needed the right medications and treatment. Finally, I needed my feelings to be validated and respected. I needed a doctor who was not only expert in the treatment of my symptoms and would partner with me in helping me alleviate them and stay well, but someone I felt comfortable with - a doctor who showed me respect and understanding.
Although I didn't have chronic lung disease I was experiencing some of what most patients do at one time or another, feelings of frustration and confusion with their own physician. In a doctor / patient relationship, this is bound to occur from time to time, and it doesn't mean you should quit your doctor right then and there and look for someone new. Long time relationships of any kind ebb and flow with good times and bad. But, if you really feel you should be doing better, you owe it to yourself to ask, "Is this really the best doctor for me?"
If you're wondering if you've got the best physician for you, take a few minutes to ask yourself the following questions:
1.) Does your doctor listen carefully to you, your symptoms, and family history before giving a diagnosis? Correctly diagnosing pulmonary disease is an important start in treating it. If you are in your 20's, 30's, or 40's and have COPD, has your doctor tested you for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency? (Many people who have Alpha-1 have seen up to seven doctors before being correctly diagnosed!) We'll have more information on Alpha-1 in the near future.
2.) Have you had a lung function test? The Pulmonary Function Screen is a quick and simple and test in which you blow into a machine that measures how much air you blow out and how fast. Depending on the results of this test, your doctor may want a more detailed test, the Pulmonary Function Complete, which tells a lot more about how your lungs are working.
3.) Does your doctor encourage you to take an active role in the management of your lung health? Is he or she willing to be your partner in helping you breathe better and live as well as possible? Does your doctor give you the chance to ask questions, show you respect, and then take the time to answer you?