You would think as a Nurse, I always took good care of myself. You might also think that as a Nurse and living a healthy lifestyle where I was working out and eating well a majority of the time, that I had no need to go to the Doctor. It wasn’t till I was having some periodic episodes of chest pain and had to receive care urgently in a hospital observation unit, that I realized I really need to start following with a primary care provider (PCP). (Please note: a PCP can be a Physician, Physician Assistant, and/or a Nurse Practitioner).
After the above instance occurred, I acknowledged to myself that I had no idea who my PCP was (my previous one had retired and I never made an appointment with the new one designated to me) and here I was, receiving care via emergency medicine. It was then that I realized I should really connect with a PCP.
After a stress test and some other lab work, it appeared that my chest pain was likely from a dietary source (let’s just say…I had a double serving of nachos with cheese at my daughter’s softball game the night before and it might have angered my gall bladder just a little bit!). However, as a Nurse, I have had the unfortunate experience of seeing many others not be so lucky. Many come in with chest pain and find out that they have experienced a heart attack or have some other serious cardiovascular issues brewing.
Many of the urgent issues people seek emergency care for are often chronic issues that have come to a boiling point. Unfortunately, you find that some of these individuals haven’t been to a PCP in years. This could be for a variety of reasons, some of which include financial, logistical, or sociocultural to name just a few.
Want to connect with a PCP and don’t know where to start? Ask your friends who they go to! You likely know your friends’ general likes/dislikes when it comes to others and perhaps if they have connected with and like a particular PCP, you might also experience the same. Likewise, they might also tell you who they dislike. Always remember though…relationships are a two-way street. Just because they didn’t like a particular PCP doesn’t mean you won’t like them. You might also have to ask what kind of Patient they were. At the end of the day, you aren’t going to marry your PCP…but you do need someone who makes you feel heard when you express your concerns, who takes the time to explain things in a way you understand, and that has your best interests in mind.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
There aren’t too many chronic conditions that you don’t generally have some early indicator of early on. Having a relationship with your PCP, it is likely that you will be prompted for some annual blood work and/or other testing (mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.). These tests may catch something early on enough to help prevent or minimize something later on. For example, a hemoglobin A1C lab test may detect the risk for diabetes early on. Or, a lipid profile may detect some early risks for cardiovascular issues. While not absolutely true in every case, there are many instances where there is the opportunity for lifestyle modifications that may help delay the onset of chronic disease or minimize the negative impact of such conditions on your life.
If you don’t make time for your health and wellness…you will be forced to make time for your illness.
A wait in the ER can be hours…worse yet…a stay in the hospital can last days to weeks. If we could plan for it, we never would. As a Nurse, I don’t know that I have ever heard someone say this was a good time for them to be in the hospital and how well it worked for their schedule! I have definitely heard about the inconveniences though…missing time from work, missing a due date for the rent, missing an important family event, etc.
Developing a relationship with your PCP allows for the treatment of many conditions outside of the hospital. One of the worst places for you to be for a variety of reasons (many of which are outside the scope of this blog post) is the hospital. Does it serve a purpose in some instances? Absolutely. However, when you have the opportunity to receive your care elsewhere, I believe you will have a much better experience.
It is generally more conducive to schedule your testing and appointments at a time that works best with your schedule instead of vice versa. Personally speaking, when I had COVID, I was able to do some lab work and an x-ray outpatient and receive direction on my care without having to wait hours in an ER waiting room and be exposed to even more sick people.
In summary, I encourage you to take a more proactive rather than a reactive approach to your health…and having a relationship with a Primary Care Provider is a great place to start.