7 Signs of a Bad Doctor (And How to Find a Good One)

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Inside: Feeling like something’s off between you and your doctor? Here are 7 signs of a bad doctor and tips for how to find a good one. 


Are you leaving your doctor appointments feeling unsatisfied? Do you feel like there’s a disconnect between you and your doctor? 

Then, it may be time to find a new one. 

According to Dr. Kristin Dean, a Family Practice Physician, “Patients with a strong doctor-patient relationship often benefit from better disease control and improvements in overall health.” Basically, a good relationship with your doctor is essential to good health.

If you’ve asked all the right questions, but still don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere it’s OK to explore new options. 

But how do you know if the problem is your doctor?

7 Signs of a Bad Doctor

1. The office staff is unprofessional.

The office staff is unprofessional.

I moved my son to a different pediatrician for this reason. During COVID-19,  I had a situation where my husband couldn’t take Asher to his doctor’s appointment, so our nanny and I went instead.  I explained to the office staff about my disability and why two people needed to attend the appointment (which was against their policy of only letting one person attend the appointment)

Rather than asking me more questions, the office staff told the doctor that I had broken their rules without explaining that I was disabled. When he questioned me about it in front of the entire office lobby, the nanny calmly explained why we needed two people there. He apologized profusely and said that no one had disclosed my disability to him.

I could have probably let this slide, but then the nurse who was giving Asher his shots that day dropped the syringe on the floor, picked it up and continued to use it. 

I had already made up my mind that we wouldn’t be coming back and the fact that none of the office staff apologized or said goodbye when we left the office that day, let me know that I was making the right decision. 

2. Your doctor isn’t listening to you.

isn’t listening

A recent study by the Ochsner Journal found that 75% of doctors believed that they communicated satisfactorily with those in their care, while only 21% of the people treated by those doctors said that their talks went well.

So, where is the miscommunication?

It’s important that your doctor asks you open-ended questions rather than relying on a list of basic yes or no questions.  If you feel like you’re not being heard after explaining your symptoms, let them know by saying something like: “I’m worried that we aren’t communicating well. Here’s why I feel that way.” 

It’s also helpful to bring a friend or loved one to the appointment with you. Sometimes, our anxiety takes over and it’s hard to communicate effectively when this happens. Having someone else in the room who can act as another set of ears can help you better assess the visit. 

3. You can’t get in touch with them.

Signs of a Bad Doctor

Remember earlier when I was talking about moving my son to a different pediatrician? I ended up finding a different doctor.  

During that odd time where Asher was between two different doctors, he came down with his first cold.  We were unsure if he could have contracted COVID-19. Since he was technically considered a patient at both offices, I called both doctors and asked them what we should do. 

We were given an emergency appointment scheduled within two hours of calling the new pediatrician’s office. 

How long did we wait to hear back from his former doctor?

Asher was already on his way home from getting a COVID-19 test at the new office before the old office had even called to tell us to “just take Tylenol.”

If it’s hard to get in touch with the office or you feel like you’ve been left stranded, it may be time to find a different doctor.

4. You don’t know what’s going on.

You don’t know what’s going on.

If you feel like you’re left in the dark when it comes to your health, you may have a bad doctor. Your doctor should thoroughly explain why he believes you have a certain diagnosis or a differential diagnosis. They should also be receptive to answering any and all follow-up questions related to your health.

In addition, you should know the reason why you’ve been offered a particular therapy. For instance, your doctor should go over the reasons why he’s recommended surgery or certain medication. You should also know the potential side effects and complications. You should never just blindly trust a doctor’s opinion without fully understanding the details behind their recommendations.

5. Your doctor is rude or condescending.

Your doctor is rude or condescending

One time my doctor asked me what made the muscle twitching worse in my body, and I told him that I can feel a connection between stress and the switching. He scoffed at me like there’s no way that could occur. Honestly, I’m still not sure what answer he was looking for.

If your doctor is rude or condescending to you then it’s time to get rid of them. Confidence is a good trait to have, but, when it turns to arrogance, it can lead to a difficult relationship where you don’t feel comfortable speaking openly with your doctor. 

“Wise patients understand that there is no room for arrogance, narcissism or condescension from egotistical medical professionals. Their lack of respect for our needs and their difficult personalities will inhibit the partnership we need to develop, and we won’t get the care we need from them.”

The relationship between physician humility, physician-patient communication, and patient health.

6. Your doctor seems rushed.

Don’t take it as an insult if your doctor seems rushed. One of the major downsides of our healthcare system is that doctors are required to see many people a day, leaving them with a small amount of attention guaranteed to each patient. 

If your doctor seems rushed, you could start off the conversation by saying something like, “I know you’re in a hurry today, but I have a couple of questions I need to get answered while I have your attention.” 

You can also leave questions with your doctor and they can follow up with answers. If they’re not open to this or seem unappreciative that you’re trying to move the appointment along easier for them, then you may have a bad doctor. 

7. They don’t offer helpful alternatives.

It’s okay if you’ve been searching for a diagnosis and your doctor cannot definitively give you one, but this doesn’t mean that the doctor should give up.  They should always offer you alternative suggestions such as potential therapies and/or lifestyle changes. A good doctor will even suggest getting a second opinion.

7 Signs of a Bad Doctor

How to find a good doctor? 

  1. Check online for reviews of what other patients have said about doctors.
  2. Factor in technology, like electronic health records and patient portals.
  3. Scrutinize the staff and office facility.
  4. Watch out for red flags like a substantial amount of malpractice claims.

Final Thoughts on 7 Signs of a Bad Doctor (And How to Find a Good One)

If you think your doctor shares some of the 7 signs of a bad doctor, don’t let that stand in the way of finding a new one. You should feel comfortable enough to speak with your doctor openly about your health. In turn, they should offer helpful information and alternatives.

Don’t let a bad relationship with your doctor stand in the way of getting the help that you.

Have you ever had a doctor that you thought was bad? Tell me in the comments below!

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Allie Schmidt
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Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.

4 thoughts on “7 Signs of a Bad Doctor (And How to Find a Good One)”

  1. My last doctor prescribed a laba to be used without a corticosteroid. That is dangerous for a person with asthma. I didn’t realize it didn’t also contain a steroid until I looked it up. I know what I have because I have had asthma since I was a young child. I knew the medication wasn’t working. He finally prescribed a different medication. But, he was not good at making sure I had refills that were needed. He was also pushy about tests that I didn’t need or want, yet would not order a bone density which I thought was needed due to my age and medication history. Then covid 19 hit. I need to find a doctor I trust and who will be respectful and listen.

    Reply
    • Hi CJ,

      Your doctor should never prescribe you something that could counteract a current health condition. Your doctor does not sound like they have your best interest at heart, especially if they’re not refilling your prescriptions on time. You may have better peace of mind by taking the plunge and seeking a new doctor!

      Reply
  2. I have been through dr after dr. I am a very nice lady. They start out so sweet sometimes. They are indifferent, rude, condescending , sarcastic, uncaring and treat me like a number. I am an individual human being. They seldom compliment me on my achievements and Health strides. They are quick to criticize. There is no need to keep mentioning my age or what stage of my womanhood I am at in my lifetime. I am the same person. The technicians are as rude as they can be. They yell all my stats out loud. They seldom compliment my accomplishments Health or otherwise. Now that’s not to say that there is an ocassional dr or tech that doesn’t mention my age or womanhood. They talk very nicely and make me feel like a worthy person.

    Reply
    • Hi Joanna,

      I’m sorry to hear that your doctors and technicians have been rude and failed to recognize your health achievements. They definitely shouldn’t be yelling your health reports loudly in the presence of where others could hear! That would make me feel uncomfortable, too! Are you able to switch doctors? It might also be helpful to ask the staff if there’s something that you’re doing to irritate them. (Not because you actually are doing something irritating, but this question would let them know that you feel their animosity without them feeling attacked.) Sometimes, a frank conversation can do the trick!

      Reply

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