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A woman clutches her aching back while pushing a shopping cart and looking at a lineup of doctors.

What is My Criteria for a New Rheumatologist?

My rheumatologist of the last fifteen or so years is retiring. Talk about striking fear in the heart of a long-term patient. Wow, that is not great news. I know some people may not have a good relationship with their rheumatologists. I get along with Dr. N well. We have been through some tough times, and finally, we have this monster nearly figured out. Or as figured out as it can be anyway.

It is not unexpected

I have seen it coming for some time. Dr. N. told me he intended to retire sooner than later a few years back. He stopped seeing any new patients, he contracted office hours, and he moved his practice to a rehabilitation setting, where he could use their office support. But still, like a Timex, he kept on ticking (do not worry if you do not get the reference, you must be older than 60 to understand it).

When he told me he was retiring, I was still in a bit of shock. No more visits with Dr. N.? Gulp. You see, here is the thing, Dr. N. and I are on good terms. Like all his long-term patients, he gave me his cell number (if you are ever in trouble, call me, he said). He meant that extended to being arrested, but I am unsure. Dr. N managed my disability, my brush with death a few years back; he even understands if I ask him offbeat questions. He likes those questions. So, replacing him will be difficult, if not impossible.

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Dr. N’s pending retirement caused me to list the things I wanted in my new rheumatologist.

This is my list:

Female doctor

I prefer a female doctor. I have nothing against male doctors; some of my doctors are males. I find females so much more careful and precise. Last year my long-time endocrinologist also left practice, and I was able to find a doctor to take over that part of my care. Adding a female rheumatologist would mean that my big 4 (cardiologist, endocrinologist, primary care, and rheumatologist) would all be females.

Knowledge is power

I want someone knowledgeable. That may be obvious, but when almost any doctor can hang out a shingle and call themselves a Rheumatologist, I want to exercise care in choosing a doctor. I searched inside my hospital system and found a few, but also, I asked around. I looked at the American College of Rheumatology for one in my area. I asked my Primary Care Doctor (PCP). My most important source of possibilities is my infusion nurse (she knows everyone in this community).

Still, I must understand that each person I ask has their own experience and frame of reference, so it is incumbent on me to listen to each with discernment.

Someone who gets me

I want someone who gets me. That means someone who laughs with and at me. I also want someone who will laugh at themself. If a person does not have a sense of humor, our relationship will never work. I understand that my humor is more about putting up with me than getting me. Likewise, I do not mind putting up with them and not getting them, but they must be willing to laugh.


I want someone active in the American College of Rheumatology and hopefully the local Arthritis Foundation. Connection is essential to me because that is how I accomplish things. We will get along better if they are connected to others in their profession and the broader world.


I want someone willing to be my consultant, not my manager. I only hire doctors for their specialized expertise in their field. I need that expertise. I need their knowledge, training, access to medications, and good judgment. But they also need to listen to me to make decisions that are appropriate for my treatment. I am not a textbook; some things do not work well for me. I need them to consider my preferences and not attempt to bully me into or out of medical decisions. Being a bully is the surest way for me to stop seeing them.

Long term

I have only changed rheumatologists when they stopped practicing. I do not want to start now. I will, but I do not want to. I want a long-term relationship. It takes much too long to break in a new rheumatologist to treat me. Who wants to do this repeatedly? Not me for sure.

The front office

The front office must be professional but also agreeable. I would not say I like it when I do not have a good relationship with the front office. Nothing can kill a doctor relationship for me quicker than a fouled-up, angry, condescending, or disagreeable front office person.

What are your criteria for a good doctor-patient relationship? If you had to search for a doctor, who would you consult? Please give me your additions to the list.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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