Do I Need a New Oncologist?

By Stacey Feintuch
Reviewed by Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS

When you’re going through chemotherapy, you may be seeing your oncologist more frequently than you see some of your closest friends. So it helps if your doctor provides not just clinical excellence but also the compassion that makes your visits pleasant—and takes your care to the next level. 

Unfortunately, not every doctor scores an A+ in bedside manner: According to a national survey by the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, only 53% of patients and 58% of doctors rated the U.S. healthcare system as a compassionate one.

So how does your oncologist rate when it comes to clinical expertise and compassion? Ask yourself the following questions; if you can check three or more, it may be time to find a practitioner who can provide the treatment you deserve.

  • Your doctor doesn’t have as much experience with your type of cancer as you thought.
  • Your doctor doesn’t follow through (for example, doesn’t call when they say the will).
  • Your doctor doesn’t listen to you or encourage you to ask questions.
  • Your doctor is unsympathetic, cold or disrespectful.
  • You don’t feel confident about your doctor’s abilities.
  • You feel rushed and often leave appointments with some of your questions unasked.
  • Your doctor uses terms you don’t understand.
  • Your visits lack continuity—you constantly have to repeat yourself.
  • Your doctor doesn’t seem knowledgeable about the latest cancer treatments.
  • Your doctor doesn’t share all test results with you or explain why a certain test or treatment is being done.
  • You consistently have to wait a long time for your appointment, are put on hold for a while when you call or can’t get convenient appointment times.
  • Your doctor doesn’t call you back if you leave a message.
  • Your doctor is rude, condescending or defensive.
  • You were misdiagnosed or an error was made in your treatment.
  • You just don’t have a good feeling about your doctor.
  • Your doctor is self-centered.
  • The office staff isn’t friendly or helpful.
  • You’re unhappy with your doctor’s bedside manner.
  • Your overall experience is not positive.

What to do before you switch to your new oncologist
Once you’ve decided that you should or want to change doctors, make the transition smooth. You should:

  • Schedule a final visit with the doctor you’re leaving.
  • Have copies of all medical records sent to your new doctor, including notes and test results, especially any that relate to current, recurring or chronic health conditions.
Published March 2014

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