Ask the Expert: Tips for finding doctors in your new town

Tips for finding doctors in a new town

“Ask the Expert” is an ongoing series that brings you expertise from individuals in a field related to moving and travel. If you have suggestions about an expert you’d like to hear from, email us at

1) Tell us a little about yourself, your family and your work:

My name is Kalyn and I’m a physician assistant in the Orthopedics department at a community hospital in Central Massachusetts. I have a passion for writing, and even authored a novel, but have less time to dedicate to it since the birth of our child, Aubree. She’s a 14-month-old sweet, energetic toddler. She was born in Central Missouri where my husband and I lived since our college days. My husband pursued his PhD in Bioinformatics and I worked at the University of Missouri Hospital. When I was six months pregnant with Aubree, we learned that my husband’s research advisor decided to leave Missouri and move to Massachusetts to head the new Bioinformatics program at a private institute. He asked my husband to follow him and after evaluating all the pros and cons, we concluded with “why not?” We moved to Massachusetts when Aubree was just six weeks old. We had no friends or family there, but thankfully I didn’t start my new job for another six weeks and my husband worked on his PhD remotely for the semester to help me out.
Honestly, the stress of moving cross-country with a newborn, an unpacked new house, and a new job got the best of us (mostly me, I think). I worked very hard to limit feelings of regret, sadness, and most importantly, resentm12184176_10103477329076610_4354772280752813783_oent toward my husband, but I definitely shed many tears. I knew we were in this together, but when you feel alone (no visitors or anyone familiar for thousands of miles) and you are the main caregiver to a newborn (because let’s face it, breastfeeding moms are typically glued to a newborn), the pressure is heavy. To make a long story short, one year later, we do feel like this place is more like home. My husband and I had to overcome lots of arguments and differences in parenting, in handling stress, and in our lack of “us” time. We’ve still have a ways to go, but we’re learning.

2) What are some ways that people who move can ensure the best possible continuity of care when they transfer doctors for themselves and their children?

My best recommendation for continuity of care is to have your past medical records to give to your future providers. This would include immunizations records for kids, any abnormal issues during pregnancy and records regarding the diagnosis and treatment for an uncommon disease or illness. An up-to-date list of all medications (including vitamins and supplements), medical problems, prior surgeries and allergies is super helpful.

3) What kinds of questions should you ask when you’re looking for a new doctor in a new town? What are the best ways to find a doctor you are comfortable with?

When asking around to find a new doctor, get recommendations from colleagues at work or if you are a stay-at-home parent (and haven’t had the chance to connect with others yet) may be able to give insight via reviews from past patients. More importantly, find out which doctors are accepting new patients. You might have a great recommendation, but the office states that there is no availability due to patient load. At that point, you could ask the receptionist: “If you had to choose another physician, which one would you choose?” I bet you’d get an honest answer.  Questions to ask others could be, “Does the doctor listen well?” “When you need an appointment, how quickly can you be seen?” “Is the office staff friendly?”

 4. What can a patient do prior to being seen by a doctor to make sure the physician is a good fit?

Do your research. See if anyone you know has any experience with the doctor and office. Google might be helpful. And if all else fails and you don’t like the doctor/office for whatever reason, go somewhere else!

5. Explain a little about Nurse Practitioners (NP) and Physicians Assistants (PA) and how they The Moving Mom - Ask The Expert graphiccan be a good fit for some people when seeking care?

PAs and NPs can see patients in clinic, in the hospital, in the emergency department, and assist in surgery. We can perform procedures like aligning broken bones or stitching up a cut. As many patients can tell you, PAs and NPs are usually more available than the doctors (no three-month wait time) and historically spend more time with patients. PAs go through an expedited “medical school” if you will, learning all the same topics as medical students and rotating through the main areas of medicine just as they do. Because I am not an NP, I can’t speak specifically to their education, but I do know that most NP programs are online and suited for nurses who are currently working full-time jobs (you have to be a nurse to enroll in an NP program). Regardless of education differences, PAs and NPs essentially function in the same capacity.

 6. What will a doctor want a new patient to have or know at a first visit?

Again, a complete, up-to-date list of medications, medical problems, etc. is very important. It is a snapshot of your health. Additionally, writing down your symptoms and when they occurred is also helpful, as patients don’t always remember every detail when they’re sitting in a doctor’s office.

 7. Why is it important for a patient to be as transparent and honest with a doctor as possible?

More frequently than I’d like, patients don’t tell the truth about things. Particularly about controversial subjects, like tobacco, alcohol, drugs and sex. Medical professionals are not the police. We only care about these details so we can appropriately treat you going forward, not send you to jail. Setting aside legal topics, you might be embarrassed about something and don’t want to share. Believe me, we’ve seen and heard much worse, so be open about it. We are not here to judge you. We just want to help.

8. Any other advice/information you would like to pass along?

When searching for a new doctor in a new area, call your insurance provider and ask which doctors are in-network. You may get a great recommendation from a friend only to find out that that doctor isn’t covered under your insurance. Do this for dental providers, too. Find out which hospitals are in-network in your city. No one likes surprises!
Kalyn Dhroso’s book is entitled Stages and can be found here.
-compiled by Emily Robertson

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