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It’s Nothing Personal

Mar 4

Posted by: ACHA
3/4/2013 11:07 AM  RssIcon

By Christy Sillman

I’ve decided to leave my local cardiologist, and it really feels like a messy breakup. I’ve given this cardiologist several chances to regain my trust and rekindle the working relationship we started off with, but there comes a point where enough is enough and you just need to walk away.

Advocating for yourself is hard. You sometimes have to be the “bad guy” and can often feel like you’re doing it all wrong. I think we’ve all been there—whether it’s calling for test results, asking for second opinions, or putting in special requests. We put ourselves out there hoping they’ll understand our needs.

I’ve spent 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. obsessively checking emails and staring at the phone hoping it’ll ring. I give myself pep talks before I break down and eventually call them to see if the results are in. When I sought a second opinion while pregnant, and searched for an appropriate level of cardiology care for my complex CHD, I actually felt like I was cheating.

I get nervous before appointments because I hope I get all my needs met and that they treat me nicely. It’s been 12 years since I was out there dating, but the relationship issues with my cardiologists feel very familiar.

I know it sounds insane, but there really are a lot of similarities between romantic relationships and the relationships we have with our cardiologists.

  • Vulnerability: We put our hearts in their hands.
  • Trust.
  • Communication.
  • Financial and time commitments.
  • Wanting to feel important/special.
  • Wanting to feel they care.
  • Anxiety, fears, and baggage

These are the concepts we deal with when we enter a working relationship with our cardiologists. Call it dramatic or needy, but it is a highly emotional relationship.

Let me stop and say that I really don’t want to disrespect any of my cardiologists—they have chosen us as their life work. That’s amazing!

As a medical professional, I know that it’s not personal. The one time I was “fired” by a family was when I was a new grad nurse—and it all stemmed from a miscommunication. Ultimately I understood that I had offended and despite trying to clear up the misunderstanding, I respected their wishes and switched assignments with another nurse. I’d be lying if it didn’t hurt, but I knew we weren’t a good fit for each other.

When a parent or patient asks me for something, asks a “dumb question” (their words, not mine), or expresses their concerns to me, I take it as an opportunity to guide my care with them. I appreciate that feedback and encourage this type of participation. I want to be the nurse to whom patients feel they can let their guard down and open up. I want them to see me as their partner.

Consequently, it angers me beyond belief when I don’t receive the same level of care. When I’m treated as a number, a diagnosis, an unknowing patient who needs to be ordered around, it’s offensive to me as not only an active member of my cardiology team, but as a nurse.

So I need to break up. I need to find a relationship that suits my needs better. I need someone I can click with. I need to not simply receive care—I need to feel cared for.

It’s not personal. I’m sure other people love this cardiologist and their relationship works well for them. It’s just not right for me.

Now the question is, how do I go about this breakup?

Slip away in the night? Write a 10-page letter explaining why, in hopes that it improves their future relationships? Have my friend the ACHD cardiologist do it for me? Leave a Post-it on their office door?

I’m dying to know—have you ever had to break up with a cardiologist or other doctor? How did it go? Do you sometimes feel similar in that our cardiologist relationships mirror romantic relationships?

Christy Sillman was born with tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia and now works as a pediatric ICU nurse. She is passionate about working with both children and adults with congenital heart disease. Christy writes a weekly column on her experiences as a nurse, ACHD'er, and new mother, which you can read at by clicking here.

Copyright ©2013 ACHA

Location: Blogs Parent Separator ACHA Blog

6 comment(s) so far...


Re: It’s Nothing Personal

Been there, done that and it's not pleasant. Actually, they got rid of me, and it made me very angry, because they used up a lot of my time, energy and money just "messing" around with me.
However, I've ended up in better hands, so the "breakup" turned out for the better.
I never felt that the relationship was like a romantic one, but I hoped it would be a friendly one, which for a while, with some of the docs, it was, then the whole thing turned sour.
Now I'm better off than I was for 3 long years, because now I have people who truly care, treat me like a real person, are friendly, and most interesting of all, understand my sense of humor, and they feed it back to me. So, while the relationships are professional and friendly, they are relaxing, too, because we can joke back and forth, but still get the job done that is vital to all of us.

By connie on   3/4/2013 4:42 PM

Re: It’s Nothing Personal

Hi Christy - I have changed cardiologists and doctors - most often by sneaking away - using a change in insurance or housing to request those oh-so-important records. I did "fire" one general physician though - I doubt that she even noticed because she always made me feel that she was overwhelmed and would be pleased to have a few less patients. She never asked why I was requesting my records be sent to a new physician. I also moved from one electrophysiology to another within the same practice. That was a little more awkward - but I had lost confidence in the previous one - and this made my whole team work better. I know that he was the one that took the blame for a bad procedure ... it was not his "fault" but in order for me to feel in control, I had to take a stand!
While I understand your comments on the romantic relationship - I have always tried to frame mine as a professional relationship. Without me they would not be paid, and without them I would not be alive! Kind of shark/remora relationship!

By Karen on   3/5/2013 10:32 AM

Re: It’s Nothing Personal

I am also a nurse with CHD, after the birth of my daughter I started to view my health care differently. I needed to be around for along time because I wasn't replaceable.As nurses we want to please and not offend but that often leaves us frustrated,find a Doctor that you trust and like.It really needs to be a partnership.There are great adult congenital heart Docs out there just continue your search.I wish you all the best. Nancy

By Nancy Clavin on   3/5/2013 10:32 AM

Re: It’s Nothing Personal

It's true not every provider (physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant) is meant for every patient, just like not every patient is for every provider. It is a partnership and you do need a team of providers include you as part of that team since it's your body and your health.

By MJNickolaus on   3/11/2013 8:20 AM

Re: It’s Nothing Personal

Dear Christy: When I came to the States 20 years ago, my first ACHD doctor had CHD so he totally understood where I was coming from and the frustrations we all go through. I don't think we had a 'romantic kind of relationship' but I did trust him, we communicated well and he really made me feel that he cared. Unfortunately this relationship didn't last since he moved to another state. A few years later I moved South and find myself in a similar situation as yours: I want to fire the whole ACHD clinic that I go to for the same reasons you do. We have enough to deal with and we need to take care of ourselves even if that means having to look for better care for ourselves. Good luck. -Annie

By Annie Brose on   3/12/2013 1:49 PM

Re: It’s Nothing Personal

Christy, your blog about nothing personal has touched me. I went in for that annual visit after working an entire day and feeling fine, to be told that my pulmonary pressure was high and that I needed an ECHO, get on some meds which he said none of them work very well or I would not be around long. He had last seen me in 2011, told me 5 years was fine unless I had symptoms. He is a young general cardiologist in a local area, so that is what made me search and find the achaheart and your blogs. I am planning to call the Indianapolis clinic to engage with them as soon as I can on Monday.morning.

By Betty on   9/26/2015 8:28 PM

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