Roundtable Discussion – Firing Your Pediatrician

11 Oct

Shortly before my first child was born, my husband and I interviewed a pediatrician that came highly recommended to us.  Lucky for us (we thought at the time), we loved him!  After about 12 months, though, that love turned into…hmmm…not quite hatred of course, but definitely confusion and uncertainty.  He had a very laidback manner – perhaps too laidback – that would often result in us walking out of appointments feeling like we weren’t any wiser about how our son was developing or how we were doing as parents.

A great example of his attitude:

Me:  “Should we use organic milk?”

Doc (shrugs):  “It’s your money.”

It took me a while to decide what – if anything – I was going to do about the situation.  I really don’t like confrontation, so I was worried about what his office might say to me if I told them I was going to a different doctor.  Would they grill me?  Ask my why I was leaving?  Demand to know what the problem was?  I dreaded the possibility of having to deal with all that.

I don’t remember what finally gave me the courage, but I did eventually decide to replace him.  No one in his office ever said anything to me.  In hindsight, I think it probably happens all the time, and they don’t care.

I then repeated the process of interviewing doctors, like I did when I was pregnant, but I don’t feel that really got me any closer to finding my perfect match.  In my opinion, you never know how you’re going to click until you actually use them.  I ended up going with a pediatrician whose name I had heard from several different moms.  I figured word-of-mouth must really be worth something.  (And wouldn’t you know it, I later found out that word-of-mouth on my old doc was terrible!  I wasn’t the only one who had kicked him to the curb.)

I think many people dealing with physicians (of any specialization, not just pediatrics) feel a bit powerless to challenge anything the doctor says or does.  After all, they’re the experts!  But since we must be the best possible advocates for our children, it’s important for us to come out of our comfort zones and make sure we’re getting everything we need from our pediatricians.  We must feel comfortable asking questions, and they must be able to give us answers we can rely on.

My story has a wonderful ending.  We LOVE our new pediatrician, and can’t say enough good things about her.  I’m so glad I made the switch!

Do you have a story about a dreadful pediatrician?  Did you fire him/her?  Or are you in a situation right now where you’re questioning whether your pediatrician is the right one for you and your kids?  Tell us about it!

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2 Responses to “Roundtable Discussion – Firing Your Pediatrician”

  1. Lori October 11, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    Like you, Jen, I thought I did extensive research when selecting my pediatrician. When I interviewed this particular pediatrician, I thought he answered my barrage of questions appropriately. It was not until my baby was born and we were having difficulty breastfeeding and with weight gain, when I realized just how clueless he was.; and I was too. At the time, I was an inexperienced parent and was under the impression that “doctor knows best”. I followed his ridiculously poor recommendations with regard to feeding and my baby ended up with horrible jaundice and unable to nurse at the breast. Luckily, I was also attending local La Leche League meetings, and was able to get “correct” information there. But it took four months for my daughter to return to nursing at the breast! During that time, I faithfully pumped and bottle fed every few hours, eventually getting her back on with the assistance of a nipple shield. It was an extremely difficult time for myself and my husband, all of which could have been avoided with better/more correct information from the beginning.

    Even through that experience, I continued to use this particular pediatrician. Two of my friends wound up dropping him, but the thought of having to research and start all over again was too much for me at the time. Once I had my second baby, I became concerned about the immunization schedule. I had done extensive research on immunizations and while I was not opposed completely to immunizing my children, I was asking him to work with me on an alternate schedule. He became extremely arrogant and from my point of view, the discussion became more heated. He was using scare tactics like saying things like, “Your child will DIE if you don’t immunize her. Don’t you even care about your daughter?” I was crying, holding my infant, and my older daughter was about 2 1/2 at the time. She could see that something was obviously wrong, and was trying to console me, but at the same time was interrupting. The doctor grabbed her by the shirt and proceeded to reprimand her, saying something like, “Your mother and I are trying to have a conversation here. You need to sit down and be quiet.” To say that I was infuriated would be an understatement. I am quite certain there was smoke pouring out from my ears. I do not tolerate ANYONE laying a hand on my children, and I felt he had completely crossed a line in grabbing her by the shirt.

    I never went back after that. Like Jen, I obtained information on another pediatrician through word of mouth. I also went online and wrote about my experience with that physician in the hopes that anyone trying to use him would look him up and see who he really is. I love our new pediatrician. She is pro-breastfeeding and very knowledgeable on the subject. She allows works with me on an alternative immunization schedule. She never pressures me to give my children flu shots. She always respects my parenting decisions, and has never once judged me.

    My advice for all new mothers out there is to ALWAYS trust your instincts. You have them for a reason. If something doesn’t sound right or feel right, it’s probably not going to be right! It has been my experience that I know WAY more about my own children than any of their doctors ever have. I could have saved a lot of time, energy, and grief had I just gone with my gut on so many things! The good thing is, I know better now and will not make the same mistakes going into the future!

  2. Lisa Martin October 11, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    We have fired two pediatricians–one for Paige, the other for Chip–over the years. It’s hard to leave them, if only to get over the psychic hurdle of filling out more forms. Chip’s is the more recent case. I had asked that we delay his MMR vaccine. I am not saying the vaccine is the reason behind the explosion of autism in this country. BUT as we have a daughter with autism who did receive the vaccine, I am quite sensitive to the possibilities. Plus, with a husband in news, I also know that we have not experienced a significant outbreak in North Texas of measles, mumps or ruebella in many years. Had we planned to take Chip out of the country, we would have gone for the shots sooner. As it was, Chuck and I have significant concerns about overloading a toddler’s system with toxins. Twenty years ago, children had less the half the required immunizations.

    Chip’s doctor agreed at first (it was a question I asked when I “interviewed” her while 8 months pregnant with him). She said no problem; she’d take our cue for that. At the 2-year mark, she asked if we wanted to do the MMR. I said no. At 3, she asked at again. Still no. At 4 (an appointment I went to by myself) she completely lit into me about what an irresponsible parent I was for not getting him covered. I was stunned and mortified. And I ended up agreeing that he could get the shot.

    It wasn’t until a couple of hours after the appointment that I realized how unprofessional the exchange had been on her part. Any trust I’d felt for her evaporated with the stick of a needle. We never went back.

    With Paige the situation was less clear cut. Her pediatrician was good, but he wasn’t particularly good with her–or me. And at that point, he seemed to know next to nothing about autism. (Granted, this was in the late 90s, when diagnoses were running about 1 in 20,000 as opposed to 1 in 100 today.) He did work with us on setting up testing–deep/sedated hearing at the Callier Center at UT Southwestern and brain imaging at Cook Children’s. But everything was my suggestion, not his. So while he didn’t do anything wrong (as opposed to Chip’s pediatrican), he didn’t help either.

    They both happen to go to our family doctor now. He typically does not take children under age 7, but because Chip is caught up on his immunizations, he agreed. (Irony duly noted.)

    It is so hard to disagree with a doctor. When Paige was hospitalized at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas in January 2009 (for a partial bowel obstruction), I wound up yelling at a psychiatric resident. I’d been there for four days straight, fearing that Paige had a meningitis or a brain virus and was literally at my wit’s end. I shocked myself! (I’m not a screamer.)

    What I tell myself to this day is that these doctors have wonderful educations and experiences to draw upon to help my kids. But I have the Ph.D. in Paige and Chip–and that counts too. The smartest, savviest docs out there give mothers a lot of credit. They should.

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