Finding 'Dr Right'
How to find the right doctor for you and your child
Like shopping for your significant other, you need to shop for the right doctor. What works for one person may not work for you. You might have to try out several 'Dr. Right nows' before you find the one that is right for your family. It was definitely a journey to find my GP.
So what to look for when shopping for 'Dr. Right'?
1. Qualifications & Experience
GPs in Australia are now recognised as Specialists in General Practice. Doctors go through additional training after they leave the hospital system and have to pass an exam to gain their specialist qualifications (FRACGP or FACRRM). Doctors that do not have these letters after their name might be GPs that have been in private practice prior to 1996 (and therefore have considerable experience), GP registrars (doctors that are working towards their speciality exam) or overseas trained doctors. The practice information sheet should have a bio of each doctor at the practice that outlines their qualifications, experience and if they have a special interest area.
2. Great ears & Communication skills
GPs need to listen. While there are some fantastic communicators out there, there are also some doctors that can make you feel like you are talking to a brick wall. Your GP’s job is to listen to your concerns, perform an appropriate assessment, then provide medical advice, guidance and education. If you don't understand something, ask. There is no such thing as a silly question. Your GP wants to work with you to manage your own health and that of your child.
3. Detective skills
Decent detective skills are essential. This one is a little bit more difficult to assess but your doctor should be able take a thorough medical history, perform an appropriate clinical examination and then formulate a working diagnosis. Sometimes a test is needed to confirm their diagnosis or exclude the nasty stuff. Your GP may not always have the answer. There are some weird things that can go wrong with the human body, but that is where the serious detective skills come out. In all cases, the doctor should be able to explain their line of thinking, what the evidence is that led them down that path and what you and the doctor are going to do to work through it together.
Trust is a key element in any relationship, whether it be between family, friends, or between a doctor and patient. That's why we call it the ‘Doctor-Patient relationship’. Trust can really only be developed over time, but if your GP fits most of your shopping list, there is a high chance they will earn your trust in no time. If you think about it, if you don’t trust your doctor how can you expect your child to?
Now that you are armed with a basic tick list, where to start? Unfortunately, there isn’t a dating website for you to match up with your ideal GP. A good place to begin is by asking family and friends. If you are new to an area and don’t know anyone, try the local chemist or ask a local mum. Don’t be shy to ask a random mum or dad the next time you take the kids to the park!