5 Ways to Find the Best Neurologist for Your MS Needs
Last updated: October 2022
When I was diagnosed in 1986, my neurologist told me to go home and call him if I experienced any symptoms. He’d prescribe a round or two of steroids. Adios and have a good life.
I changed doctors after that. My next doctor was excellent but strictly traditional. At that time, the school of thought practiced by most doctors was traditional medicine. The answer to every symptom was a prescription to (hopefully) get you better. They didn’t look at the “whole person,” – that is, body, mind, and spirit. They considered complementary and alternative medicine (healing practices combined with traditional medicine) uncharted territory.
I received no guidance about complementary treatments
Learning about integrative medicine
I was fortunate to happen on the advice of Dr. Andrew Weil, an American-trained doctor who focused on natural health and wellness and helped establish the emerging field of integrative medicine. I often write about Dr. Weil’s work since it had such a profound effect on me. I followed his advice on nutrition, meditation, and spiritual practices that helped provide a feeling of being in the driver’s seat as much as someone can with an unpredictable disease.
Many different neurologists spanning my 30 years with MS
I’ve been to several neurologists over the 30 years I’ve had this disease. They ran the gamut of wonderful to arrogant, from uninterested to you-don’t-look-sick-and-you-walked-in-fine-so-you-must-feel-fine.
Last week I finally hit the jackpot. I’ve been searching for a new neurologist whose practice was closer to home. After asking trusted friends and doing a lot of research, I finally had an appointment with my new doctor.
All I can say is, “Ahhh!” Read this next sentence twice:
My neurologist took 45 minutes with me and gave me the most thorough examination I ever had.
An extraordinary appointment
Yes, you read that right. Forty-five minutes! In today’s world of healthcare, I’d say that’s extraordinary.
Beyond the typical tests she asked:
- Did I want a prescription for a massage? (Was she kidding? That took 2 seconds to answer.)
- Did I try mindful meditation to help me sleep better?
- Was I practicing yoga for better balance and to increase my walking distance?
- Did I have any questions for her? What were they? Was there anything else?
Relieved that doctors were now looking at the whole patient
I was surprised that I didn’t faint from the surprise of it all. I laughed, cried, and hugged her after the exam. I told her about my first appointment 30 years prior and how happy I felt knowing that younger neurologists were looking at the whole patient, not just throwing drugs our way to stop every symptom.
She was a breath of fresh air and treated me with the respect and dignity every patient deserves. I found a doctor who believed me without question, looked directly in my eyes while I was speaking, and encouraged me to seek answers within complementary medicine.
Every person living with MS deserves a neurologist who will hear them. It doesn’t matter what our financial or insurance situations are. We deserve to be heard.
5 tips for getting the care you deserve
Here are a few tips based on my experiences:
- Research online to find the right doctor for you. Ask those you trust for recommendations. You can check doctors’ backgrounds online at Vitals.com to check patient reviews, credentials, locations, availability, and accepted insurance. (NOTE: Keep in mind that reviews are based on the reviewer’s experience, and their needs and expectations are often different from yours.)
- Bring a list of what you need to discuss with your doctor. If they’re ready to show you the door before you’ve reached the end of your list, loudly insist they stay to listen. Bring a loved one along if you need a little help. Do not leave until you are done with your list.
- Find a doctor you feel comfortable with, one who puts your needs first. You should be a cohesive team and have the ability to reach them by phone if necessary. Some doctors answer questions at the end of their workday or have a nurse practitioner respond on their behalf. You want to feel taken care of. You deserve that.
- Move on! If, for any reason, you don’t feel your doctor is the right one for you, move on. You only have one body and you need to take care of it the best way possible.
- Work the chain of command. If you’re in the emergency room and feel your needs are not being met, notify a nurse or health care worker to discuss the situation. If your needs are still unmet, work the chain of command. The head or charge nurse should be notified, and after that, demand to see the Department Director of Nursing or the Chief Nursing Officer. Every hospital has a chain of command and working it is not a sign of weakness but a way of trying to resolve your issue.
What does advocacy mean to you as someone living with multiple sclerosis? Please select all that apply: