Finding a Doctor
Although interviewing health care professionals is vital to the
physician selection process, it should be one of the final steps.
Before interviewing doctors, a woman should do most of her
homework ahead of time in order to narrow her potential pool to
just a few candidates. That way she can use the interview to gauge
the manner and compatibility of her choices in order to settle on
just one of them.
Before the interview, a woman must first decide what sort of health
care provider she wants to see. An OB/gyn will obviously offer
basic gynecologic care, although she is more focused on surgery.
Because of this, these doctors easily get behind in their
appointments during office hours -- and those appointments have
to be made rather far in advance. As a plus, OB/gyns can provide
their patients with more experience and detailed knowledge of
gynecological problems and their treatments. But, these doctors
aren't the ones to see about treating common colds and such. This
is the sort of doctor a woman is looking for if she is planning on
having children. But it is necessary to check into whether or not a
particular doctor handles deliveries, since not all OB/gyns do
throughout their entire careers.
Nurse-midwives do basic routine gynecological care. They tend to
offer more personalized care and attention for their patients. They
practice under the supervision of a physician. They can obtain
prescriptions for birth control pills or minor infections without a
separate visit to the supervising physician. They will do routine,
low-risk deliveries. For women who do have more significant
gynecological problems or complicated pregnancies,
nurse-midwives cannot offer advanced care.
On the other hand, an internist will be just the opposite of OB/gyns
and nurse-midwives - great for most illnesses including chronic
problems, but don't expect much if you have a question about
irregular periods. Because these doctors are more focused on the
internal organs, they will not be the best choice for minor injuries
such as a cut, a sprained ankle, or getting something out of the
A family practice doctor is a good choice for all around general
health issues, and some even do deliveries to boot. The potential
drawback here is that because these practitioners cover such a
wide range of illnesses, they are not able to address more
complicated gynecological or obstetrical problems in-depth.
And then there are also women's health specialists - their focus is
pretty self-explanatory. Although these specialists do not offer
obstetrical care, they provide detailed gynecological care. What
makes these doctors especially beneficial is that their focus allows
them to also address general illness and diseases, but with an
emphasis on how those problems uniquely affect women. It's
one-stop shopping for all a woman's primary care needs.
Where to Find Someone
No matter what sort of doctor a woman chooses to see, she may
want to give extra consideration to a practitioner who is a member
of either the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA),
National Association of Professionals of Women's Health
(NAPWH) or the American College of Women's Health Physicians
(ACWHP). Not surprisingly, like women's health specialists, the
members of these two organizations are sensitive to issues
specific to women's health, and may give more consideration to
diseases that affect greater numbers of women than men. This is a
great place for a woman to begin her search - she should call the
local chapters of these organizations for a list of member doctors.
If she cannot find local listings, the national offices should be able
to provide similar information.
Word of mouth is a great source of information. Ask friends and
relatives who they see. There's nothing to match the experiences
of a of another real live patient. Try to seek the recommendation of
a woman who is similar to you in temperament, and philosophy on
What Else to Consider
After deciding on the type of doctor a woman is interested in, she
can begin to narrow her search even more based on a few
parameters. Possible things she may want to look for include the
distance the doctor is from her home or office, what sort of
insurance or health plans the doctor accepts, or what office hours
the doctor keeps.
The Myths About Credentials and Doctor Referral
Some tout Board Certification as a criteria for selecting a doctor.
Invariably, these are the people who run the board certifying
organizations who wish to create a monopoly for their own. Board
Certification is routinely granted to doctors who toe the line and
jump through some administrative hoops and pay big bucks to
these organizations, but are of questionable clinical competence.
Formal studies have shown no difference in clinical outcomes
based on board certification. For female patients there's an extra
twist. Even today, physicians in training are denied this credential
in retaliation for complaints about sexual harassment or
discrimination in their own work situations, or for opposing sexist
or abusive treatment of their female patients. So the doctors who
are the strongest advocates on women's issues are the ones most
likely not to have this credential.
Likewise, where the doctor went to school, what hospitals or
universities she is affiliated tell you very little about the doctor's
clinical quality, especially with respect to female patients. The
people most interested in having you think that it matters are the
people who have a financial interest in such institutions. Many of
the powerhouses in women's health broke away from traditional
medical institutions because they stifled innovations in women's
health. But, some managed to pursue their goals within a more
Especially in light of how simple the initial search process is, most
people are better off not using services that offer to do it for you.
These services can be used either through 800 numbers or web
sites, but they are often not independently run. Instead, various
health care conglomerates or medical societies run these services
and can skew the search results to promote their own doctors. If
you do choose to use this option, be aware that you may not be
getting the best results.
Okay, so now the initial research has been done, and the field has
been narrowed to a few top picks. It is at this point that a woman
should call her candidates and arrange appointments for
interviews. Most likely, doctors will arrange the meetings as office
visits. During the interview, the woman should get an actual feel for
the doctor's presence and manner so that she can make her final
decision confidently and knowledgeably.