Mamas on Bedrest: 5 Characteristics of a Great Healthcare Provider

October 17th, 2011

My OB, Dr. Karen Swenson, is on the cover of the October issue of AustinFit Magazine. She has been named President of the Medical staff of the Seton Healthcare Family (the large network of hospitals here in Austin) and will assume her role over some 2800 physicians starting in January 2012. She is the first woman to hold this position. She is also very fit, exercising every day and this is what lead, in part to her cover story.

While I am thrilled about Dr. Swenson’s appointment, I have to say, I give her kudos specifically for being an excellent obstetrician and gynecologist. I have been a patient of Dr. Swenson’s for 10 years now and can say without reservation, I have no regrets about any of the care that she provided for me including treating my uterine fibroids, prenatal care, care during my miscarriages, delivery of my children and general well woman care. She has always been caring, compassionate, listened to me and was respectful of my wishes. For me, she embodies what a physician should be. Can you say that about your OB? Match your OB or any healthcare provider against these 5 qualities that I hold near and dear about Dr. Swenson. If they don’t make the grade, you may want to make some changes.

1. Skilled and Up to Date. Dr. Swenson is Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and has been in practice for 30 years. I have greatly appreciated her knowledge of new technologies and procedures (I have been the recipient of several!) and the fact that she and her partners at Women Partners in Health keep up with the current practices and news in obstetrics and gynecology. When I went into labor with my daughter (3 weeks early) her partner, Dr. Radhi Karkarla did an excellent job delivering my daughter via c-section and then dealing with my hemorrhaging, boggy uterus. Her Nurse Practitioner Midwife Nancy Loomis fitted me for a cervical cap when hormonal contraception was not an option for me. And 2 years ago I had an endometrial ablation (seered and removed the lining of my uterus to stop heavy bleeding) instead of a hysterectomy thereby preserving my uterus and other reproductive organs, allowing me to enter menopause naturally and to stay (relatively) hormonally stable.

2. Puts Patients Needs First. When I told Dr. Swenson that I wanted to have a tubal ligation at the birth of my son, Dr. Swenson first confirmed that I was sure I wanted the procedure. (“There’s no turning back, you know.”) Then, she told me that I could not have the procedure at Seton as they are Catholic and don’t allow the procedure to be performed. When I insisted that I wanted the procedure, she simply said, “Fine, we can deliver you at St. David’s”, (the other large hospital in town).

You have to understand what this meant. Dr. Swenson’s office is across the street from Seton Medical Center, about a 2 minute walk. St. David’s Medical Center is about a 10 minute drive away. Now this isn’t a huge distance, but at that time, I was her only patient at St. David’s. After having my son, she came to St. David’s every morning to check on me first (usually between about 6:30 am and 7am) before heading over to Seton to perform rounds and start her day. When she had an early surgery one morning, her partner, Dr. Diana Weihs came and saw me. Dr. Swenson and Dr. Weihs completely altered their days to take care of me and to give me what I needed.  Now that’s patient care!!

3. Knows Her Limits. After my first miscarriage, Dr. Swenson and Nancy Loomis determined that my uterine fibroids would make it virtually impossible for me to carry any pregnancy to term. I needed to have them out. They referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist (fertility doctor). I cried and wailed, “But I’m not infertile!” (I don’t know why that term so ignited me, but I did not want that label!). They both politely explained to me that at my age (I was 36 at the time) I really didn’t have time to fool around if I wanted to get pregnant. Dr. Swenson admitted that she could perform the myomectomy, but the way she did the procedure, the recovery time would be about 3 months. If I had the reproductive endocrinologist do the surgery, the recovery would be far less (it ended up being 2 weeks!). After much crying and wailing, I did have my fibroids removed by the reproductive endocrinologist, I recovered in the aforementioned 2 weeks and was pregnant that month with my now 9 year old daughter. Loving Limits.

4. Great Office Staff. I never wait more than about 20 minutes to see Dr. Swenson. Even when I came in emergently (which I did several times with my daughter, the last time when I was in labor), I didn’t wait long. I was checked in immediately and if Dr. Swenson could not see me and I needed to be seen, I was  seen by one of her partners.  Whenever I called, my call was always returned within 24 hours. Prescriptions were always quickly filled. Labs were always quickly reported and if needed, explained. I never felt abandoned or ignored. Great Service.

5. She Listens to Me. One thing that I have come to rely on is Dr. Swenson listening to me. I know that at times I must have made her crazy; I questioned everything and always had my own little agenda. Dr. Swenson has always been patient with me, listened to me and even if something just wasn’t feasible, she explained things to me so that I understood. Then we together came up with a plan of action. I always felt like I was an integral part of my care.

So these are 5 reasons why I like my OB, Dr. Karen Swenson. How does your health care provider compare? Are they up to date on the latest medical advances? Do they put their patients first? How is the office staff, is the office accessible? Do they return calls promptly? Does your doctor listen to you? Are you an active participant in your care? If not, you may need to speak up to make your wishes known and to improve your relationship. If that doesn’t work, you may need to switch providers.

What are the most important traits you look for in a healthcare provider? Are they different than mine? Share them below so that we can all benefit. Remember, you can also share with us on Facebook and Twitter, @mamasonbedrest.


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