The Challenges of Switching Doctors
Still, unrealistic expectations and preconceived notions have doomed plenty of doctor-patient relationships.
"There's an observation among ob-gyn circles that the patient who comes in with the longest list of demands is guaranteed to have the most complicated labor and delivery," says Sharon Phelan, MD, a professor at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. "And the women who come in with lots of demands are also often the ones I see doctor-shopping."
Dr. White and other experts suggest that women examine their reasons for wanting to change doctors and try to resolve problems first before seeking a new practice. Then, if you still need to switch, do it as early as possible to ensure your new doctor becomes familiar with you and your case.
"Most ob-gyns are uncomfortable with getting a new patient who is past 32 weeks, because even if you get the patient's records, you don't know the nuances," says Robin de Regt, MD, medical director of Women's and Children's Services at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, Washington. "That doctor-patient relationship is the art of medicine, enabling you to ask: 'What's changed with this patient?' If you don't know your patient, you can't answer that question."
After her experience, Backes also advises friends to try to settle on a doctor quickly.
"When I was looking for a new doctor, a lot of them were already booked," she says. "Changing so late in my pregnancy definitely limited my choices."
If you're thinking of switching doctors, tell your current physician why, experts urge.
"Many people want to avoid a confrontation, so they just have their records transferred with no explanation," says Susan Keane Baker, author of Managing Patient Expectations (Jossey-Bass). "That's like someone's breaking up with you without giving a reason. You should give the doctor a chance to make amends." Or at least do better in the future with other patients.