Doctor Dating 101: How to Find Dr. Right


Breaking up, meeting someone new, hoping for the perfect match.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Welcome to the frustrating and sometimes catastrophic world of doctor dating. Everyone remembers their first time…the anticipation, the nerves the hope that “he” would be the one.  As the day finally arrives you check your reflection in the mirror and take a deep breath, hoping this time you got it right.  You had practiced conversation starters and crossed your fingers that he truly listened to you and wasn’t just after one thing.  Your money.  You walk into the room with more trepidation than you have ever had in your entire life.  Would he be supportive?  The questions swirl in your head and make you dizzy before he even enters the room.  Finally….there he is….your stomach flips…he takes one look at you and lifts an eyebrow, saying those 5 words that you know so well.

“But you don’t look sick…”

And just like that, the date is over. You’re not compatible and you can’t leave fast enough. Dr. Right isn’t who you thought he’d be…what now? It’s not like you haven’t gone through this before….it wasn’t your first time taking a dip in the doctor dating pool. Searching for the perfect doctor is frustrating and much like the perfect man or the Easter Bunny…he just doesn’t exist.  If your first doctor doesn’t meet your needs and isn’t someone that you can see taking care of you for the rest of your life, don’t drive yourself crazy waiting for him to see the light.  Of course, it takes time and effort to build and nurture a good patient/doctor relationship, but you should be able to tell fairly early on if this is someone you trust with your health.  I have been down this road many times and “dated” many doctors only to find myself back to square one.  I have learned a few “dating” tips to keep in mind when shopping for Dr. Right.

Date Before You Get Married

 When you go on a first date, which are you more likely to do; go to the movies or hop on a plane to Vegas and wake up with two poker chips and a wedding photo of you in a Madonna outfit circa 1984?  Same thing applies during the first date with Dr. Right.  Don’t just vomit your entire medical history the minute he walks through the door. Establish a solid relationship before you decide that he’s the one.  First appointments are like first dates in that both of you will be on your best behavior.  After a few times of being in his office, you will know if you should be looking at flights or run screaming in the other direction.

Google The Skeletons In His Closet

 In the age of technology and social media, googling the name of your date is a must-do.  Just type in his name and you’d be surprised what pops up.  The internet will tell you if your prospective date was the class valedictorian in his high school or if he recently starred on Dateline NBC’s To Catch a Predator.  Doctor shopping is no different.  There are tons of industry specific websites that give information on doctors.  Check on training and board certification at the American Medical Association. Just remember that some information will be objective and some subjective.  Just because one of his ex-patients writes an expose on him doesn’t mean he’s not Dr. Right.  However if you find an entire website dedicated to Dr. Moron, it might be a good idea to cancel the date and move on.

He Gives You All His Time 

 All doctors tend to be busy, but once you’re in the office, good doctors will take their time. Making time for you means that he doesn’t leave you sitting in the waiting room while he eats doughnuts that the local pharmaceutical rep brought that morning. It means that your doctor will give you his undivided attention and really listen. In the this particular relationship, you are in the driver’s seat.  Let’s face it, you are the one who knows how you feel and just like in real relationship dating, he’s not a mind reader.  The perfect Dr. Right will support you and make you feel empowered, not like you are holding up his golf game.

He’s There When You Need Him

 During the initial “dating” phase with your doctor, your scheduled dates are perfect…you talk to each other with ease and finish each other’s sentences.  However, if you start flaring, develop a weird side effect or for another reason need to speak to him in between your regular appointments, Dr. Right will be there the minute the phone rings, not check the caller ID and let it go directly to voice mail.  He may be busy that next day, but he will always find time to squeeze you into his schedule even if it is for 5 minutes.

He Has The Affection Connection

 Having a chronic illness is difficult.  Having a chronic illness is stressful.  Having a chronic illness is unpredictable and the sudden appearance of pain and swelling is an emotional burden.  Dr. Right won’t get spooked by your constant need and instability.  Just like being in a relationship with the one that always makes you feel safe and secure, Dr. Right will make you feel comfortable enough to talk about the pain that’s everywhere, your fears that give you nightmares and your anger at the fact that you just lost a chunk of hair and now resemble Mr. Clean.

All In The Family

 When all is said and done and you throw away “Dating for Dummies” because you have most definitely found Dr. Right, keep one thing in mind: you’re marrying the whole family, which for a doctor means the office staff. I like to call them the gatekeepers and trust me, if you piss off the gatekeepers you will suddenly find yourself as the unofficial outcast of the family. When a flare knocks you down and drags you down the dating highway, you’re at the gatekeepers’ mercy, so think of them as the quintessential mother-in-law.  They were there long before you were in Dr. Right’s life and they have a hand in the success of your “marriage”.  Work with them…not against them.

Remember that just like any courtship and marriage, your relationship with Dr. Right will have its ups and downs and there will be times that you won’t see eye to eye.  The key to making it through the rough patches is mutual trust, shared respect….and an understanding that no matter what his argument….he’s wrong and you’re always right.

Just like in marriage.  🙂

Article written by staff writer Stephanie Kennedy

About Stephanie:
I live in Fayetteville, NC with my husband and 3 always hyperactive and occassionally adorable children. I was diagnosed with SLE in 2001 at the age of 27 and in the time since, have added Scleroderma, Hashimoto’s and Celiac’s disease to the original Lupus discovery. In my day-to-day life I am a Community Relations Specialist (aka, marketing and creative hodgepodge facilitator) with a local electric cooperative and part-time fitness instructor. For the past two years I have served on the Executive Steering Committee for the LFA’s Fayetteville Walk For Lupus Now event.
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  • Oh I have gone through this!! I ended up ‘dumping’ my first doctor: I saw him for two years and it took him a year and a half to come to the conclusion I have arthritis ‘of some sort.’ He made taking anything stronger than a little methotrexate sound as if I would die, and it was my fault for needed a new treatment. By the end, I hated this man.
    I began seeing a new doctor, who diagnosed me as JRA but changed it to JPsA (Psoariatic arthritis). It only took him a few visits, which was a relief. He tried so many treatments and pain relief options, and treats me like an adult or a kid, depending on how I feel. I will definately stay with him as long as possible.
    Now if we could just do something about that nurse…..

  • Nicolette

    How true this is! I found Dr. Good, who is a great doctor but doen’t really know how to treat me medically, considering we’ve reached the point in our relationship where we’ve established that the only good painkiller I can take is a combo of Tylenol and Advil and he know’s he cannot prescribe me painkillers and he doesn’t have the knowledge to treat my muscular problem (but then again, the only doctors who do live 5 hours away!). He would be “The One”, though, if it wasn’t for his nasty gatekeeper. She doesn’t call back, she takes weeks to do anything and when I do actually talk to her she’s a nasty ‘ol byeotch. With a mother in law like that, somebody better get the divorce lawyers ready!

  • Hey, would it be OK for me to put a link to this article in the next edition of Patients For a Moment? It fits my topic question perfectly, and was so well done! Please let me know by Nov. 7 if it’s ok!

    Here’s a link to my call for contributions:


  • Betsy

    I forgot to recommend a book I just read and loved. It’s called The Empowered Patient by Elizabeth Cohen, Sr. Medical Editor of CNN. You can get it on line. It’s a terribly important book. I’m a patient advocate and have heard from over 25,000 patients since 1991 in their quest to find doctors who will treat them decently, so this book was espcially interesting to me, not just as a patient advocate, but also as a patient.

  • Betsy

    My former PCP’s staff have very rigid rules that rarely have anything to do with the safety or comfort of the patient. The MD, himself, is a very sweet man, but not overly competent. I left him. My husband is still his patient. Friday, my husband was rushed to the hospital from his place of work for a suspected heart attack. I phoned his PCP when it happend at 4:15 to ask for them to fax of phone his cardiac records to the ER. Their reply – – – we don’t have anything to do wi th the patient until they’re discharged from the hospital. The ER was desperately trying to get those records, and, of course, in the process 5PM happened, the PCP’s office shut down, not to open again for 3 days, and when I called the PCP after hours to see what was going on, he didn’t like my comments about his staff’s rules and hung up on me.

  • mcc0523

    I am blessed to have my cardiologist. I have POTS, secondary to EDS. He was the one who diagnosed me with POTS, after about 10 minutes of making me change postures (from lying, to sitting, to standing) and meticulously checking my pulse and blood pressure the whole time.

    He was rather impressed that I had already figured out the POTS. I had printed off medical articles about POTS (including a symptom list) and highlighted every symptom I had been having. This past summer was horribly hot, and it was causing me such horrible symptoms. I called in June asking for help, even though my next appointment wasn’t until August. I was called back the next day (I waited until 4:30pm to call) and was squeezed into the schedule that same day. I mentioned my appointment with Dr. F for the EDS and how sometimes POTS can be secondary to EDS, and it presents a little differently. He told me to ask her questions about POTS and to tell him what she said!! He has mentioned on at least a few occasions how frustrated with POTS and how helpless he felt with treating is, since it is so difficult to treat and he wished that he could help me more.

    His nurse is awesome, as well. I am a music major, and she remembers that every time I have an appointment (and I don’t have them very frequently there, about every 4-6 months). She is very caring as well. The receptionist is very funny and put me at ease from the first moment I met her.

    Now, if I could only find a GP and PT just as good.

  • Thank you for posting this article. I am on my third Rheumatologists and I have Lupus, Fibro, and Sjogen’s. When the doc comes, in there’s an uneasy feeling starting with someone new probabaly because I had a very bad experience the first go-around. I was very sick, passing out places and very disabled, to only be told it was in my head. Fear, anger, denial, frustration, and hope as you said to find the “wonderman or woman”. I hope that one day further awareness/research will make someone’s journey alot easier. What it did teach me though was to “believe in myself”. I knew something wasn’t right with my body. After alot of fighting(physically, emotionally) and help of family- we got there. One day I pray that no words need to be spoken about this disease and that there’s just an understanding –

  • Emily K Williams

    This is such a great article. I laughed while reading because it is all so true. Especially the part about the gatekeepers (staff) !! You mess with them and it is surely over !! I have dated my share of Doctors and I have NOT found Mr. Right. So I will take everything in this article with me to my next appointment coming up very soon. Thank you for writing.

  • Dottie Balin

    Great article and so very true. Thanks for sharing.

  • One of my worst experiences was going from a city where I had wonderful docs and moving to a new city where the docs didn’t even believe I was sick, much less disabled. They completely disregarded seven years’ worth of records from well-respected medical professionals. I never did find a specialist in my current city that I actually like; I just had to take the one who would do me the least harm, because my insurance wouldn’t allow me to shop around in another city.

    Only once have I ever found a good doc plus good office staff. It’s usually one or the other but not both. I usually go with the good doc and try and be as patient with the incompetent staff as I can.

  • Kathy Auen

    I enjoyed this article immensely. Funny, but sooo true. I have many doctors for various illnesses. Only my oncologist is DR. RIGHT. The others I’m still dating.

  • Amusing metaphor. Unfortunately, if you relocate you have to go through the whole thing all over again. What you need or want in a doctor may vary. But the most important thing is finding one that will actually listen to you.

    A lot of them don’t. They will listen to your caretaker. They train themselves to literally ignore anything the patient says in favor of what the record says, and that’s how mistakes get perpetuated.

    I want one who’s going to refill my prescriptions, treat me with respect, not give me a hard time and not get all gung ho on trying to sell all the treatments that never worked and did me harm the last 90 times I tried them, like exercise. Best of all, the one that’ll share information freely and explain what he’s doing and the basis for his suggestions.

    The best doctor I ever had was the one who volunteered at the homeless shelter I stayed in from 1998-2000. He always had the attitude of educating me and I learned a lot of surprising, useful tidbits from him – also he was good at maneuvering the system, like prescribing vitamins so they’d be covered and I wouldn’t have to buy them out of pocket when I got severe symptoms from a vitamin deficiency.

    It always helps if I’m not the first chronic that ever walked through their door. Educating professionals on my time and my dollar doesn’t appeal to me in any form. I’ve done it too many times in self defense. So these suggestions are all good ones.

  • isabelle janicaud

    after 25yrs of ‘dating’ which makes me a bit of a doctortart with over 200 different ‘dates’,i found TWO perfect dates that dont mind sharing me..i was warned off the first,told he is eccentric and irrational and no one likes him….i love him! he took one look at me,laughed like a madman,spun in a circle and shouted ‘i know what u got,i know what u got!’ he saved me.
    he is a 80 yo dermatologist ,so i still had to find a gp that would believe me
    and miracles of miracles i did…
    he knew jack**** about lupus,but gave me benefit of the doubt,warning me it probably wasnt SLE cause i wasnt in enough pain…and when the tests came back,his whole attitute changed and he is becoming my biggest advocate and helper…
    miracles happen people,i almost still cant believe it!

  • rachel

    i’m still waiting for dr right!

  • rhonda

    Not sure if it is just a coincidence, but a friend of mine published a blog very much like this a few days ago with a similar title…if you got your idea from her, at least give credit where it is due.

  • Laura

    Thank you!
    Now we need to get doctors to read it!

    and then insurance companies get thrown in the mix, and you hear of a doctor you want to give a test drive to, and now you can’t unless you are independantly wealthy!

  • Angie

    Wow, perfect timing! I’m trying to decide right now if my hubby and I will be breaking up with our family doc or trying to work out the recent bad patch. This is hard since I just got my dh going to this doc – of course he’s peeved too on my behalf. On the other hand, I think I love my surgeon’s staff as much as him. LOL They (both surgeon’s offices) just got fancy cupcakes at the end of this last ordeal. Thanks for the post. 🙂

  • Bianca

    I can so agree with dating the office staff as well. Several people i know of complain that they can’t get in to see the doctor when they need to at my doctors surgery. I get in straight away. Why????? At least once a month when i am there i bring the office staff morning/ afternoon tea.

    I love to bake and don’t mind having someone else eat what i make ( i certainly don’t need the calories) The only time i ever have problems is when they hire someone new and they dont recognize me. After the first visit though out of all of the patients i get greeted like family.

  • Chris

    I have to agree with the comments made here so far. You’ve really described it well! Very insightful.
    Finding “Dr. Right” is a difficult quest, but one worth going on.
    Thanks Steph! 🙂

  • Chelle

    Dating is not easy!

  • Courtland

    Another great one Steph. Seems like you have had a lot of experience “dating around.”

  • Angie_Stl

    Another wonderful, funny but oh so accurate article. I really think, even though we have different diseases, we really do share a brain.

  • Ivy

    Wow! This is a GREAT article. And right on the money too.

  • CBW

    Outstanding — and very accurate!