What to Look For in a Neurologist
When I was 6 years old, I had a pair of brown leather fisherman sandals I was obsessed with. I wore them with every outfit, regardless of the event or time of year. But by the time I turned 7, it was clear that I had outgrown them. This didn’t faze me; with a singular focus, I attempted to force my growing feet into these sandals, regardless of the amount of pain they caused.
But finally, my tiny 7-year-old brain accepted that I needed to let them go and find a new favorite pair of shoes. They weren’t the right fit anymore, and my body demanded I find a better pair.
Myasthenia gravis (MG) made me realize I needed something better, too.
When I started searching for a different doctor, there were a few qualities I was on the hunt for. I wanted a neurologist who was honest, experienced with MG, respectful, and optimistic. I believed these qualities would lead me to a healthier future. They are also characteristics that anyone with MG should be looking for when searching for the right neurologist.
When I first met my current neurologist, I quickly found out that she didn’t waste time with platitudes or flowery words. She was straightforward and told me the truth about MG.
Although I was slightly thrown, I appreciated her honesty. Like her, a great neurologist will be honest about a patient’s condition and possible future. And when someone is always honest with you, the relationship grows stronger.
Experience with MG
While this may be an obvious trait, it’s not always the easiest to find. In a perfect world, all neurologists would be well-versed in every disease. But the reality is that even some of the best ones have limited exposure to patients with MG.
Finding a neurologist who has treated MG patients opens up a world of possibilities. Because of their experience, they have a history of knowledge they can use to treat patients. However, this may be one of the harder traits to find. At the very least, a great neurologist should have the drive to research and reach out to other neurologists who have experience with MG.
Great neurologists must not only command respect, but also respect their patients. I’ve experienced a situation where a doctor didn’t take my symptoms seriously, and it made me feel terrible. When a patient finds a doctor that listens and treats their comments with respect, the relief is palpable. It’s like a weight has been lifted.
Great neurologists don’t treat their patient in any kind of inferior way, but as an equal. A truly respectful doctor-patient partnership leads to better outcomes and healthier futures.
I’m the first to admit that I have a tendency to act like a Debbie Downer. Luckily, I have learned that optimism is much more helpful than pessimism. But not only is optimism a good trait for patients to have, it’s also something great neurologists need to have as well. This doesn’t mean a doctor should be grinning and making up lies about a patient’s health (see “Honesty,” above), but they should still help a patient see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Even if things aren’t going so well, a great neurologist can still assure that there are other options or treatments for MG. If a doctor is pessimistic about the future, it greatly affects the mental health of the patient. And when the mental health of a patient with a rare disease is tenuous at best, patients need all the support they can get.
I am fortunate enough to have a neurologist who has all of these qualities. No one is perfect, but I believe every person with MG has the right to work with and be cared for by someone with these traits. MG is never an easy road to navigate, but the right neurologist can make the twists and turns that much easier to handle.
Note: Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Myasthenia Gravis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to myasthenia gravis.