In Part 10 of the series, “Every Family Has a Story,” Darla Johnson helps you think through the options if you need to change your special-needs child’s health care provider.
For previous posts in this series, click here.
In a pivotal scene in “The Lion King,” Rafiki and a grown-up Simba are peering into a pool of water. Rafiki challenges Simba to see his father, Mufasa, in his reflection. Simba is frustrated and tries to brush off Rafiki and his mysterious ways. However, Rafiki knows that inside Simba lies some remnants of his father, and tells him to, “Look harder” (which actually is pronounced something like “luke hod-dah”). At times when we don’t like our situation we need to get past the frustration and “look harder.”
This true when you don’t much like one of the professional care providers for your special needs loved one. Whether or not you have someone in your life who has special needs, this principle is true: you have the ability to hire and fire your providers. Did you know you had such control?! Now, before you let all of that power go to your head, understand that it’s a two-way street; your provider also has the option to fire clients/patients.
I didn’t necessarily understand that until I worked as an RN on a busy medical/surgical unit in a hospital. I remember hearing a physician talking at the nurse’s station the he had “fired” a patient for being non-compliant and even downright defiant toward his doctor’s orders. I agreed with his actions. Doctors are very busy people and don’t really have time to spend on a patient who doesn’t really want to be helped anyway; some other deserving individual could’ve had that appointment slot. At some point in caring for my two special needs children, I realized that I could turn the tables, and if I didn’t like one of our providers, I could choose another.
What might be some reasons that you’d want or need to “look harder” for a new provider for the special needs person in your life? One reason would be that their office hours are not at all convenient for you and maybe someone else holds hours that work much better for you. Another reason may be location or the distance to which you have to travel to get there. Personality styles can be an important factor when you spend a lot of time with a particular healthcare professional; if you just don’t jive with him/her it can affect how you perceive his/her care for your loved one. Perhaps they’ve breached confidentiality with you (a serious offense). Another important reason to discontinue service with someone is if your “gut” tells you something about your provider is not right; instinct can be spot on at times.
On the flip side, what would not be good reasons to fire the healthcare professional your special needs person sees? If your issue can be boiled down to personal preferences that really don’t influence the level of care he/she renders (such as attire, neatness of office, age, weight, nationality, etc.), you can probably learn to work through that. If you’ve heard rumors about his/her personal life but they haven’t been substantiated or don’t affect how he/she practices, you’ll have to decide that one for yourself. Basically, anything that seems petty and can be overlooked should be overlooked if you otherwise like the healthcare provider. After all, this is a professional relationship, not a private one.
But if you have had to fire your provider, then what? You probably need a replacement. Begin looking for another in the same way you came across the one you let go. Or check online or in your local yellow pages. Ask around to people you know who use a similar provider. Sometimes word of mouth recommendations are some of the best because you can find out what you may like or dislike about a professional before meeting with him/her, but do take into consideration the opinion of the person giving you the “low down,” because that’s all it is—an opinion.
I do understand that it’s not always possible to choose another provider because of insurance plan restraints, geographical distance, cost and other factors. So then what are you to do? Well, not stand around, wring your hands and worry about it! That won’t fix a thing. If your issue is a serious one, then you probably need to have a heart-to-heart with your current provider. If you approach the issue in a mature, professional manner, citing facts (not accusing), then you may make some progress toward a better relationship.
Dialogue is important because sometimes we professionals don’t realize we’ve offended someone! I made a student’s parent mad one day and I didn’t know that until my boss (the principal) let me in on it. I called the parent to apologize. So speaking up may go a long way to paving a beautiful future of cooperation and good care for the special needs person in your life. If your issue is a small one based on personal preference, then keep in mind that this relationship is in the best interest of the one you care for, and you can put up with those differences for his/her long-term good.
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