How to Choose a Doctor

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How can my doctor and I be partners in my healthcare?

Choosing a doctor is an important part of taking care of yourself. You and your doctor can form a partnership where you can learn from and help each other.

In this relationship, you each have a job to do. Your job is to learn as much as you can about your own and your family's medical history, and to communicate this to your doctor. Talk openly to your doctor. Your doctor depends on you to tell her about your signs and symptoms. She needs your knowledge of when the symptoms started, what brings relief, what makes them worse, and what medications you are using or have used.

Your doctor's job is to help you take care of yourself by giving you the information you need to make decisions about your health. You depend on your doctor to help you understand why you feel the way you do and what your symptoms mean. Your doctor's role is not only to explain things in terms you can understand, but also to give you a correct diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.

How can I choose a doctor?

Get the names of several doctors and interview them before making a choice. Think ahead of time about what you want in a doctor and what you want to know about them.

Consider asking them the following questions:

  • How long has she been practicing?
  • Is she affiliated with a hospital? If yes, which one?
  • Does she have expertise in any particular areas? If yes, which ones?
  • Who covers for her when she is not available?
  • Does she have time to adequately address your concerns?
  • Does she return phone calls?

If you feel comfortable talking openly with your doctor about your health concerns, then you are on the way to developing a positive partnership with her. This will be especially important if you have a chronic disease and your relationship with her is long-term.

Where can I go for more information?

You can call your provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons. They can provide you with names of doctors who are taking on new clients.

College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC)

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA)

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO)

Collège des médecins du Québec

College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Prince Edward Island
199 Grafton Street
Charlottetown, PEI C1A 1L2
(902) 566-3861

Newfoundland Medical Board
139 Water Street
St. John's, NF A1C 1B2
(709) 726-8546

Yukon Medical Council
P.O. Box 2703 C-5
Whitehorse, YK Y1A 2C6
(867) 667-5111

Health and Social Services
Government of the Northwest Territories
Box 1320
Yellowknife, NWT X1A 2L9
(888) 255-1010

You can also check out the following books:

  • Health Talk: How to Communicate with Your Doctor. Mary F. Hawkins, 2000
  • Taking Charge By Taking Care: A Canadian Woman's Health Guide. Marilyn Linton, 1996
  • Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century, Chapter 25, "The Politics of Women's Health and Medical Care." The Boston Woman's Health Collective, 1998