Group of doctors and a family set in a hospital

I stared critically at my doctor as she explained, in hard to understand broken English, her thoughts on what I could do to address the condition I was there to see her about. She was such a pleasant woman and spoke to me conversationally, like a friend, which made me feel comfortable. However, I knew for a fact that at least 2 options she shared with me were out of date by Western standards and she didn’t seem aware of others.

One of the blessings of being a Western expat abroad is that you usually have free healthcare, or the co pay is relatively small. additionally, medicines tend to be extremely affordable. This blessing though, is part of the standard compensation plan of any decent employer and having access to it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be critical of the care you receive.

I’ve heard horror stories of Western patients who ended up with doctors who didn’t know what they were doing; treated them as if they were “dirty”; or looked medical information up on google. In a way, it can be a good thing if you find yourself in this type of situation because it forces you to become more proactive about your healthcare and better informed about your options. This is also true in our home countries and certainly there are doctors there whom we need to be critical of.

Here are some things to consider when trying to decide on a doctor:

What is their level of English proficiency? Having a highly trained doctor doesn’t matter if you don’t understand what they’re saying and leaving your medical care in the hands of a translator is probably not the best idea. Familiarise yourself with your condition. A well-trained doctor is the expert but it won’t hurt to know what’s going on with your body, so that you can make informed decisions about your care. Two of the most reliable sites to educate yourself are medlineplus.gov and mayoclinic.com. Be careful of self-diagnosis, as it may not be accurate.

For single women in, seeing a gynaecologist can be a bit tricky. Muslim laws oversee everything, including healthcare, so you’ll have to be discrete about what your needs are and who to go to for them. Doctor/patient confidentiality isn’t really a “thing”, so you may be better off going to a non-Muslim Western doctor you trust for an “off the record” conversation, just the 2 of you.

Even though I felt comfortable with the doctor I first described in the beginning of this article, their role is not to be my friend. Even though it’s preferable to go to a doctor with good bedside manners that should not take precedence over their level of expertise. The bottom line is choosing someone who knows what they’re talking about. Doctors are supposed to be medical experts. If your doctor is looking up information on google, not sure what to do, and doesn’t bother to give you a second recommendation to someone who does; it is time for a new doctor.

One of the best sources of vetting doctors is to simply ask on FaceBook or other online group of expats. Your question should be worded “Does anyone have a personal recommendation for a Western trained (dentist, gynaecologist, etc.)” and then ask for specific feedback once people share. I’ve found some great doctors that way. Keep in mind that Western doctors are also expats, which means they tend to move around a lot. When you decide on a doctor, ask them who else they’d recommend for healthcare, so that on the likely chance you schedule an appointment only to be told “they’re no longer at this hospital” with no further information, at least you’ll have other options. Your health should always be in your hands!

By Aisha Shakti Hakim

Shakti is an educator who has also worked as a licensed Healthcare practitioner of various healing modalities. She is the author of ‘The Busy Babe’s guide to Wellness: 8 Steps to a Healthier you Now!’ which is available on www.amazon.com

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