How to Find a Family Doctor, Help + Hope for Women with Chronic Pelvic Pain
In this newsletter:
If you haven't found a family doctor, you may not realize what you're missing. Here's an overview of how family practitioners directly affect your and your family's health, plus ten tips for finding the right doctor.
“Family doctors provide holistic care,” says Karen Buhler, M.D., Head of the Department of Family Practice at BC Women’s Hospital. “They're trained in everything, from birth to elder care - all parts of the life cycle.”
In addition to treating illness, family doctors coordinate specialist care and other allied health care when needed, and ensure care isn’t duplicated or at cross purposes. They can provide counseling, promote healthy lifestyles, and help with work-related health problems.
“Family practitioners are interested in the whole picture,” says Dr Buhler. “They usually see your other family members - not just you - and thus are aware of the illnesses that run in your family, as well as how your home and work environments affect your health.”
A family doctor can help with more than one health issue at a time. For example, if you’re trying to conceive and your partner smokes, your family doctor can combine gynecological and obstetrical care with ways to help your partner quit smoking.
Since family doctors often see their patients over a long time, they can put health issues in the context of an entire lifetime. If they treated the health issues you faced five, ten or more years ago, they can apply that knowledge to your current situation.
“This continuity of care over time is so important, and many patients realize it,” says Dr Buhler. “Some people will travel long distances just to keep seeing the same family doctor.” Research shows that the more attached you are to a family doctor, the better your overall care and health is.
A good time to find a family doctor“A good time to find a family doctor is when you are pregnant,” says Dr Buhler. “Not all family doctors provide maternity care, but those who do are usually passionate about it. They will often be able to keep you and your new family in their practice after the baby is born. If their practice is full, they can help you find a family doctor.”
A family doctor can provide care for pregnancy, breast feeding, and newborns, as well as continuing care for the baby and whole family.“The bond you create with your doctor when a baby arrives is very special for both the mother and the doctor,” says Dr. Buhler. “Starting a family is the perfect time to get established with a family doctor, either before or after the baby’s birth.”
Check the BC Women’s Hospital Department of Family Practice website for a list of doctors in Vancouver who provide maternity care.
Here are ten different ways to find the right physician…
- Ask your partner or a close relative to ask their family doctor to take you on. Generally, family doctors are committed to looking after whole families, and may be able to accept you into their practices.
- Look at the BC College of Family Physicians website and click on “find a doctor.” Check this website regularly as new doctors open their practices and create a listing.
- Ask a walk-in clinic doctor if they are combined with a family practice. You may be able to connect with one particular doctor, and see him or her regularly.
- Ask your local public health nurse, a specialist, or another practitioner to give you a recommendation and referral. Some health authorities have special family practice clinics or practices that might apply to you or your family.
- Ask to be put on a wait list in a full practice. If a space opens up, they can call you. Check with them in the summertime - not in busy flu season (November to January). In the summer, be prepared to see the doctor’s replacement locum if the family doctor is on vacation.
- Look for a Division of Family Practice in your community on the internet. Groups of family doctors are working with local health authorities to help everyone find a family doctor. Special new programs from the Ministry of Health to help families become attached to a family doctor may exist in your community. Go to the Divisions of Family Practice for more information.
- Contact your local university. Universities that train family doctors have clinics, and most of them accept new patients. These clinics are teaching units, where care is given by family doctors in their final years of training and by their teachers, who are experienced family doctors. Many other health care providers also work with family doctors at these clinics. There are two in Vancouver: UBC Health Clinic and Oak Street Clinic at (604)875-2029.
- Ask if there are any family doctors in your church or temple who may be able to take you and your family. Connect with other women in your community and ask them how they found a doctor.
- Join a family group such as a parent and baby group, a prenatal yoga class, a mom’s fitness class, or children’s activities. Those are great ways to connect with other parents, who can lead you to a new doctor.
- “Be persistent, patient, and polite – it will go a long way,” says Dr Buhler.
How to Get the Best Experience at a Walk-In Clinic
What do you do if you haven’t found a doctor, but need treatment or health advice? Go to a walk-in clinic – but be prepared to take charge of your overall care.
Here are some tips for making your walk-in experience the best it can be:
- Be organized. Go to your visit prepared with a list of your questions.
- Keep to one problem at a time and make several appointments if you need to.
- Keep your own notes/records in a journal. Ask for copies of all your tests and keep them organized with your journal.
- Ask when you should return for follow-up
- Ask what preventive examinations and tests you should be having
- Learn about what regular examinations and tests are right for you and your family, then make an appointment and discuss it with the doctor.
- Fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy with a pharmacist you can talk to and trust. He or she will help monitor your medications if they come from several different doctors.
- Keep a list of all your medications and dosages, and take it with you to every appointment.
Even if it’s challenging to find a family doctor, you can get good health care from walk-in clinics. And with persistence and a little luck, you will be successful in finding the right physician for you!
Sources and Further Reading
Call HealthLink BC at 811 or (604)215-8110 to see if you need an in-person visit, or if you can get help or information over the phone.
Check out the BC Health Guide – it’s a great resource that helps you decide what to do when you have certain symptoms.
Written by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; reviewed by the medical staff and experts at BC Women’s Hospital.
Women suffering from debilitating pelvic pain find help and hope at BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis
Everyone experiences pain from time to time. It hurts, but the pain passes. But for women living with pelvic pain or endometriosis, the pain is often severe and unrelenting, insidiously creeping into every aspect of their lives. Now, thanks to BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis, women across BC finally have access to the comprehensive, multidisciplinary medical help and hope they so desperately need.
Pelvic pain and endometriosis affects approximately 500,000 Canadian women, yet in the past the needs of these patients have been largely underserved. Dr. Christina Williams, a subspecialist gynecologist and surgeon, and medical director of BC Women’s Centre for Reproductive Health, has made it her mission to help these women.
“I’ve seen patients with pelvic pain become totally isolated and dysfunctional – in their relationships, in sex and even at their jobs,” says Williams. “What’s more, left untreated, this pain can evolve into chronic pain syndrome, causing a woman’s experience of pain to far exceed what the condition itself might create.”
BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis was established to address the unique complexities of pelvic pain and endometriosis as well as enhance women’s access to timely diagnosis and treatment. Its integrated team of specialists includes three gynecologist surgeons, a recent PhD fellow to oversee research, a full-time nurse, a counselor, a pelvic physiotherapist and a pain specialist.
“First we provide women with advanced diagnosis through taking a detailed history, ultrasound imaging and manual examination,” says Williams. “We then apply a multidisciplinary approach to treatment that might include surgery, hormone therapy or medication, physiotherapy, cognitive therapy and support groups.”
The Centre uses an online site to educate patients on the different kinds of pelvic conditions, the causes of pelvic pain, treatment options, pain management, and recovery from chronic pain.
“We also run monthly patient support groups,” adds Williams. “The groups work with a counselor and physiotherapist on learning to overcome pain.”
Written by: Anne Collette
This is the driving spirit behind every program, every equipment purchase and every act of care at BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre.
Formerly Grace Maternity Hospital, BC Women’s has been caring for BC families since 1927. BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre was founded in 1994 when Grace merged with the former Shaughnessy Hospital’s Women’s Health Centre to provide women-centred care for women of all ages, and in all stages of life.
Maternity & Newborn Care
For more than 80 years, BC Women’s has been a leader in providing maternity and newborn health care.
Averaging 7,000 births annually, we are best known as one of Canada’s pre-eminent obstetrical centres. About 20% of British Columbia’s babies are born at BC Women’s.
When a pregnant woman or unborn baby is in peril, we are there to help. We act as the provincial referral centre, caring for women carrying the riskiest pregnancies.
The province’s most critically ill and premature babies are cared for BC Women’s Newborn ICU. We are the only hospital in the province capable of caring for babies born as early as 23 weeks gestation – babies no bigger than the palm of a hand.
BC Women’s also provides one-of-a-kind care to meet women’s specialized health needs throughout their lives. Our philosophy is women-centred care: we use our research and experience to develop unique programs and services just for women.
Find out about the programs at BC Women's
Air Canada, Bopomo Pictures, Dr. Karen Buhler, Can't Stop the Serenity, Opera Mariposa, Richmond Chinatown Lions Club, Sana Shahram, TELUS, Urban Yarns, Darlene Wipfli
BC Women's Hospital thanks Odlum Brown for 15 years of continuous support.
The content provided in Women’s Health eNews is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.