When I left Singapore I mourned the loss of my doctor. I mean, to be clear, she is alive and well, but I don’t get to see her anymore. So maybe it’s more the relationship I am mourning. It had taken me a while to find her and I felt a replacement was going to be hard to secure. To be honest I also felt my hairdresser, eyebrow threading person (note to self: must learn the correct term for this profession) and osteopath (in order of importance) were going to be hard to replace but more on that in another blog.
I look for two things in a doctor besides being competent (obviously). I would like them to have a decent amount of experience and to have a friendly bedside manner, so if and when they are giving me bad news they would do so nicely, possibly offering me a cup of tea before delivering me any updates. Maybe a cup of tea is asking too much, but a sympathetic smile is well within bounds.
I looked online at a well known medical practice in San Francisco. GPs (General Practitioner) are known as MDs (Medical Doctor) here so I thought, should be easy enough. Feeling like I was well versed in American medical terminology i.e. GP=MD, I was confident I would find someone. And as it turned out I did have the option of seeing an MD of which there were a few of the many different types of medics listed that had availability but looking at their bios, they were (in my ageist opinion) a bit on the young side, some only a couple of years out of University. If I am going to divulge all my neuroses, I would rather do it to someone who doesn’t look like their all-night partying days are only just over or indeed still going strong.
So besides the option of seeing a a small offering of young MD’s there was a vast array of other people I could see with various letters after their names. My eyes starting swimming as I started reading: a DO, a PA-C, a RPA-C and an FNP-C. FFS! How am I supposed to choose between an FNP (with no C), an NP, an ANP-C (with an MS), and an CNC. OMFG was all I could think! In Singapore you go and see a GP as a first step when ill, that’s it.
So where are all the older (I mean more experienced) doctors? ‘Not accepting any new patients.’ That’s where. Or at least that is the case here in San Francisco. Regarding the level of bedside manner, there is no guarantee of course, it’s the same everywhere, sometimes it’s great and sometimes it isn’t. I remember visiting my OB when pregnant with my first daughter back in Singapore and she was like Ms Trunchball’s grumpy older sister: fearsome, impatient and acerbic. And I entrusted her with delivering my first born into the world.
And the hunt for a doctor can sometimes be more tactical in America. I hurt my back a few weeks ago while on holiday in Calistoga. After asking around for a recommendation for a good doctor, and rejecting the offer of a back massage at the local gym, I gave up and went to a nearby clinic at a hospital. I was hoping to get a slightly stronger anti-inflammaotory drug than the off-the-shelf one I was taking. I was ill prepared for an offer of Valium (Valley of the Dolls, anyone?) which I rejected as too dramatic. I was also given a prescription for Vicodin (also known as hydrocodone, it is a highly addictive and potent narcotic painkiller – and some people in America wonder why there is a serious prescription drug problem) the drug of choice for both Nurse Jackie and House. I only took two before starting to lose my mind and wondered if I had mistakenly taken four, and while keen for material for future blogs decided to stick with Nurofen (Advil in America) and start stretching my back better.
Postscript: I got a bill a couple of weeks later for USD2,479 for my trouble – although in this land of opportunity as long as you have medical insurance most of it is covered. I was with the doctor for 10mins. He asked me to touch my toes, saw that I could and said, “As you get older back pain can get worse.” “Thanks for that bit of useless and expensive information, I will tell my body to stop aging” I thought and then noted that he was old enough to know better.