Women's Health Hot Line


Tips for selecting a primary care physician

Who do you trust? One person you must have faith in is your doctor. Otherwise, you're not true partners in your medical care. Surprisingly, studies show that most women do not have a primary care physician or internist they can call their own. Too often, they rely on their gynecologist for all medical care (remember, you are more than your plumbing).

One of the most effective ways to find a doctor is to talk to friends about who they prefer. If you know someone who works in a hospital -- especially a nurse -- ask. Nurses see doctors in action, and form opinions about who's good and who isn't. If you're new to the area, contact your county medical center for a list of names. Or check your library for The Directory of Medical Specialists. If your library doesn't have it, check at a hospital -- some have libraries open to the public.

Tips for selecting a physician

If you are choosing a new doctor or thinking about making a switch, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Be a diploma reader. Make sure the doctor graduated from a reputable medical school and performed a residency at a major hospital. If the medical school degree includes the words Alpha Omega Alpha, it means your doctor was in the top of the class.

  • Is the doctor board-certified? This is an added assurance of quality. A doctor may be board-eligible, which means having the requisite training but not yet taken the exams. Occasionally, a good doctor may lack board certification, but have a solid medical reputation.

  • It's not a good sign if you know more about what is happening in medicine today than the doctor does. But don't nit-pick; your doctor may not be aware of what was discussed on Oprah yesterday, but should be on top of major medical developments.

  • What hospital is the doctor affiliated with? Even if you're healthy now, you may need a hospital stay later. If you have a favorite hospital, make sure the doctor you chose has privileges to practice there.

  • Consider interviewing the doctor before becoming a patient. If he or she responds in a patronizing fashion, doesn't welcome questions, or makes you feel dumb when you ask them, you should look elsewhere. If you don't feel free to ask your doctor anything -- and everything -- you might miss crucial information.

Trust your instincts. You don't want to change physicians often, but if there is anything about your doctor which makes you feel uneasy, consider a switch.