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It’s Nothing Personal

Monday, March 04, 2013

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?


Add yours below.


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