“Would You Like to See the Doctor?”
The week before last, I called the neurology clinic where I’ve been going since 2005 to schedule an appointment with my nurse practitioner. I phone up the appointment scheduling number.
Me: “Hi, I need to schedule an appointment with Michelle. I’m overdue for a follow-up visit.”
Scheduler: “Michelle no longer works here. She moved back to Tennessee last year.”
Me: “What?” Silence. “I saw her, um, last August and nobody told me she was leaving.”
Scheduler: “I can schedule you to see Dr. S…. Would you like to see the doctor?”
Me: “Okay. When does he have an opening?”
Scheduler: “I can get you in on August 19th. What do you need to see the doctor about?”
Me: “Well, it’s just a regular, routine visit. I was supposed to schedule something months ago, but just didn’t.” I had previously been going in for an office visit every 4-6 months, depending upon what had been going on with my MS. Not much has been going on (which is pretty great) so I hadn’t felt an urgent need to be seen.
Scheduler: “Will you need any prescriptions?”
Me: “Yes, at least one; I’m about to run out.” Looking at the quickly emptying prescription bottle is one thing which prompted me to call for the appointment.
Scheduler: “Do you have enough to last for the next couple of weeks?”
Me: “I’ll have to check to see what I have, but I think so.”
Scheduler: “Good. I have you down to see Dr. S… on Tuesday, August 19th, at noon.”
The scheduler also verified that my insurance was the same and reminded me to bring my insurance card to the office. She forgot to remind me to fill-out the brief MS symptom questionnaire and prescription form which is now available online. But that’s okay, because I remember.
So after I got off the phone, I walked into the living room and informed my husband – Michelle’s gone (sad face). I’ve been primarily consulting with Michelle, the nurse practitioner, rather than my neurologist, since around 2007 or 2008.
Of course, she had kept him apprised of what was going on, and he stopped by during a visit or two just to check to see how I was doing. But when I needed something, I called Michelle. If I was experiencing a relapse and called the office, she’s the one who called me back quickly and was even known to have me come in later that same day.
It’s strange. I feel kinda lost. Of course, I like my neurologist and I really like the neurology clinic itself. I’m very fortunate to have access to a neurologist who specializes in MS, a nurse practitioner experienced with MS patients, another dedicated MS nurse who helps to run things, and an in-house infusion center with an infusion nurse who is amazing at finding tiny veins.
This clinic hosts an annual workshop for any MS patient living in the area, as well as monthly “newly-diagnosed” support group meetings where patients have a couple of hours of face time with the doctor, MS nurse, and other patients and care partners to learn about aspects of the disease and get answers to questions.
So what’s the problem? Why am I nervous about my upcoming appointment?
Well, Michelle and I had developed a comfortable relationship. She would answer any questions I had unrelated to my own MS symptoms. I could bend her ear about popular topics in the MS community and get a healthcare professional’s viewpoints on things. And often she would spend close to an hour with me. I was spoiled with the attention.
My neurologist probably won’t have the time to humor me with answering questions if they are related to concerns I encounter in the online community. He might not be willing to write paper prescriptions so that I can control when and where I fill prescriptions since most everything is electronic now, including e-prescribing. And, he might not be as generous with the “free” samples of certain medications I can’t afford. None of these concerns are deal-breakers, however.
My neurologist is quickly approaching, or may be past, retirement age and has already been awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Consortium of MS Centers. I have known that I would need to develop a relationship with a new doctor at some point, but I didn’t expect to feel like I had to re-develop a relationship with my current (official) doctor.
Everything will be fine, I know, so the pensiveness doesn’t make sense. Or maybe it’s just that my favorite nurse practitioner is gone. (sad face again)
I think I will suggest, however, that the office send letters to all of the patients when they have a change in personnel. They could have taken the opportunity to announce Michelle’s departure and introduce her replacement. It would have been the courteous thing to do.
When dealing with a lifelong, chronic disease, we will develop relationships with a number of healthcare providers over the years. Change and turnover is inevitable. Learning to deal with change is an important aspect of living with MS.
We’ll see how it goes on Tuesday. I’m sure that everything will be fine. Maybe I’ll even get to officially “graduate” to once yearly appointments from here on out. Wouldn’t that be cool?
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