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Signs You Should Not Trust Your Doctor

Five red flags you should never ignore.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Trust is an essential part of the doctor-patient relationship, and crucial when asking for help, advice, or treatment. "In addition to inflicting the most widespread and devastating medical harm of the past century, the COVID-19 pandemic has also damaged a less tangible aspect of our well-being: our trust," says Adrienne Boissy, MD, MA, Chief Experience Officer at Cleveland Clinic Health System. "Trust in institutions and their leaders, trust in strangers we meet, trust in healthcare providers – all have been challenged. Restoring and strengthening this trust is essential for healthcare professionals, from small rural doctors' offices to the largest healthcare systems." Here are five signs you might need to switch to another healthcare provider. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Your Doctor Is Rude

Displeased healthcare worker having an argument and scolding army soldier who is taking pills at doctor's office

It can be difficult (if not impossible) to build trust with a doctor who is frequently rude or abusive.

"Disrespectful or derogatory language or conduct on the part of either physicians or patients can undermine trust and compromise the integrity of the patient-physician relationship. It can make members of targeted groups reluctant to seek care, and create an environment that strains relationships among patients, physicians, and the health care team," the Code of Medical Ethics says. "Trust can be established and maintained only when there is mutual respect."


Your Doctor Doesn't Listen To You

patient of counselor explaining her problem to doctor while sitting on couch in front of him

If it feels like your doctor is not paying attention, advocate for yourself and speak up. "You should realize that you are the expert when it comes to your body, and the doctor is the expert when it comes to medicine," says Leana S. Wen, MD MSc FAAEM, author of When Doctors Don't Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests. "The two together are necessary to help your doctor help you. Know that you're not questioning the doctor's expertise, but rather that you are adding to his or her knowledge about you. And remember to speak up."


Your Doctor Dismisses Your Concerns

patient is angry on doctor because of medical error

If you feel like your doctor isn't taking you seriously, you're not alone. "Many people have this experience; you go to the doctor for a problem that's really bothering you and affecting your quality of life, and he or she poo-poo's your symptoms and tells you to go take some Tylenol or Motrin and have a rest for a few days," says Karen Weese Bell, MD. "Sound familiar? It can be SO frustrating to have extremely bothersome symptoms and be told that 'it's nothing to worry about'."

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Trust Your Gut

doctor taking notes for patient research

"If you're confused or if something just doesn't feel right, don't be embarrassed to ask questions or to voice your concerns," says Mary Beth Modic, DNP, APRN-CNS, CDE. "Your doctor wants to make sure that he or she addresses your concerns. And if you don't understand, say so. If your doctor appears busy, say: 'I'm trying to understand, but I feel rushed.'"

RELATED: Signs You're Being Medically Gaslit


Is It Time To Switch Doctors?

middle-aged man chatting with doctor

If trust between you and your doctor has irretrievably broken down, it might be time to find a new health professional. "Although this isn't always an option for folks in rural areas, if your doctor is impossible to work with, then you should find someone else to take care of you," says Val Jones, MD. "Be very polite, get copies of all your medical records, and then take them elsewhere. Don't be stoic and stick with a total jerk if your care is being compromised by his or her attitude and behavior." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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