When Your Doctor Retires

Patient Expert
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How many times have you chosen a particular medical practice on the recommendation of a specific healthcare provider and ended up working with someone else? Or how many times have you been transferred as a patient when your doctor retires?

Swapping ownership

I’ve been transferred from older retiring doctors to young doctors so many times. After I moved to the DC area, I needed a new eye doctor and asked for a recommendation from my longtime doctor in Oklahoma who had known me for almost 30 years. He recommended a former classmate who had a great reputation. After a few years, and my first bout of optic neuritis, this optometrist welcomed a younger doctor to the practice to whom he eventually sold the practice. The transition went smoothly enough but every once in a while I contemplate how I have more years under my belt as an eye patient (since the age of four) than my new eye doctor has been alive.

A similar situation occurred when my dentist, partially chosen because he was also a trombone player and understood the unique needs of a performing musician, brought on a new partner who eventually took over the practice.

I guess that’s just part of growing older, as there are more and more people younger than you.

Developing close relationships

I also needed a new primary care physician (PCP) after moving to the DC area. I chose someone in the nearby community who had been highly recommended. It wasn’t too long before he also welcomed a new partner. When asked one time if I’d like to see her, I said sure. She quickly became my doctor and over the past 15 years, we’ve developed a good relationship. I would be sad to have to start over with a different PCP if the need occurred.

A similar situation occurred in my neurologist’s office when I first saw the nurse practitioner. At first I was reluctant, but Michelle quickly became my go-to person at the neurology clinic. In fact, I haven’t had an official visit with only the neurologist in several years. When Michelle left the practice to move to a different state, I was shocked and temporarily devastated. Now I’m working to develop a closer relationship with the new nurse practitioner.

But I wonder what will happen when my neurologist, who graduated from medical school almost 50 years ago, retires. Staff in the office joke that he will never retire, but he must…someday.

Finding a new doctor

Of course, one option is to stick with the practice I know rather well than chase down a new doctor. If I were a new patient looking for a doctor, however, I would check the Consortium of MS Centers (of which my neuro is past president) for a doctor, or call the National MS Society for a recommendation. Another option would be to attend one of the many pharma-sponsored dinners/lectures and ask other MS patients about their own doctors.

When the time comes, I will probably stick with the current office. I like the location and the services provided. I’m comfortable with the staff. And, it seems, I have a positive track record for being fortunate in younger-physician-takes-over-the-office transactions.

What would you do if/when your neurologist retires or moves away?

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