Don’t you just hate trying to find new dentists or doctors when you move? I think most of us do. I know I wasn’t looking forward to doing that when I moved to the USA back in 2010. After all, I’d been used to the NHS Service (National Health Service to my non-British readers) and although you might be lucky enough to find a wonderful Doctor or Dentist who actually treated you like a real person instead of just another number, not all of us were so lucky. I have to say that during the 20 years that I lived in Fort William, I was lucky enough to have had two really good, friendly Doctors. However, I wasn’t so lucky with the Dentists. The last time I had a Dentist that I actually looked forward to seeing, was when I was living in Bicester, Oxfordshire waaaaaay back when I was just 17!!! Probably why I never really got back into the swing of regular 6 monthly check-ups eh??
Anyway, when I first moved over here I nevertheless had to sign up with a Doctor, just in case so I did. I went with Dear Hubby to his Doctor, a very nice Dr Atto in Wyandotte. He just loved that I was British and that he could talk about FOOTBALL!!!! The REAL football, his words not mine…….Manchester United!!! He even had MU stickers on his car! Unfortunately, I didn’t stay with him for too long. Whereas Dear Hubby had originally registered with Dr Atto many years ago when he lived in that neck of the woods, I just felt that a 45 minute drive from Ypsilanti was too far a drive just to see the Doctor. So, I registered with a Doctor just a mile away from our new house, at the Washtenaw Medicine Group. He was actually recommended to me by my Physical Therapist, so that at least saved me the agony of deciding who to go and see.
Dr Kristopher Aalderink Orthopedic Surgeon
The really big difference here in the USA is that patients organize their own healthcare and procedures, whereas in the UK, you go and see your GP and he (or rather the admin staff) organize referrals and appointments and then the referred office organize any treatment or surgeries. My first real experience of healthcare other than a regular check-up in the US, was when my left shoulder started playing up again. Back in 2005/7 while I was still in the UK, it became frozen and required an intensive course of physical therapy and in total, took almost two full years to resolve. However, this one day in August 2011, my shoulder damn near locked up and I was in so much pain that I came home from work and went straight to an Urgent Care Center in tears. (For UK readers, an Urgent Care Center is pretty much like the walk-in A & E Unit at a hospital or an Out of Hours Doctor’s Clinic, sometimes they are located at a hospital and other times in a separate office location). While I was there, they examined me, took x-rays and told me that I would need to see an Orthopedic specialist, so they gave me a referral slip to see one. I then found the specialist myself and made my own appointment! Actually not as scary as it sounds BUT great as far as NO WAITING, and appointment times on YOUR schedule are concerned (subject to their own availability of course). I had an appointment within two days!!! Saw the Orthopedic surgeon – Dr Kristopher Aalderink, was given a referral for an MRI scan, which I arranged for the next week (Thursday night)- and this only took so long as I had to wait for Dear Hubby to get home from work to take me, so we had to wait for a night-time appointment. Yes!!! They have late night appointments here too!!! My appointment was for 9.45pm. Once the Orthopedic Surgeon had seen the MRI the day after it was taken (Friday), he called me in for another appointment the following Monday morning and I had the surgery on Wednesday morning. In at 8.30 am and home by lunchtime. In fact, Dear Hubby who had come with me to the hospital, had gone to the hospital restaurant for a coffee and sandwich when they wheeled me in for the surgery, and he was only just back in time for me coming out again! Once I was discharged Dr Aalderink called me at home a few times to check that I was OK – never ever experienced that in the UK!
Afterwards, once the initial healing part had taken place, I was given the all clear from the surgeon and a referral for Physical Therapy. Again, I found my own PT and arranged my own appointments. Jim, the PT was another very nice guy and he is the one who, as I said earlier, referred me to my Family Doctor (GP as we say in the UK) Gary Peppin at Washtenaw Medicine in Ypsilanti.
Dr Cameron Mouro MD, Ob/Gyn
My other hospital experience was more recent. Mature lady problems, so my Family Doctor referred me to a Gynecologist. This time, I found Dr Cameron Mouro who, really holds true to the theme that at my age practically all Doctors and Policemen look waaaay too young, in fact they (especially Dr Mouro) look as young as my 27 year old son!!! though I know they can’t be, as the learning takes way longer than that. But, young he looks – and he is a fabulously, kind and gentle young man. Makes you feel wonderful and lose any hint of embarrassment you might have. He was very attentive and caring at the hospital for my procedure, lost count of the number of times he actually stopped by to check on me. He also called to check on me when I was at home. Scheduling my procedure with Dr Mouro was a little more difficult and it took almost two months to get it finally booked – however, that was entirely because I was trying to schedule it to coincide with MY days off and work timetable! If I’d wanted to and was able to go anytime, I would again have had the operation within a week!
As for dentistry in the US – this I came to via an Emergency appointment!!! My canine tooth decided to develop an abcess without warning, the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving in 2010! Over the weekend, the right side of my face literally blew up like a balloon and of course with it being a holiday NO-ONE was available!!! We managed to get an appointment at All Bright Smiles in Dearborn with Dr Zia Rafiq first thing on the Monday morning. After his exam and x-rays he told me that I would have to see an Endodontist!! Now, being from the UK – I’d never heard of one of those!!! There, your dentist will do pretty much all dental procedures. However, here in the US, the dentist community operate more like our doctors do in the UK, in that you see a general dentist for basic work and cleanings, and will be referred to a specialist when necessary for problems such as root canals (this is what an Endodontist does), extractions (Oral Surgeon) and gum disease (Periodontist). Anyway, back to the story…..Dr Rafiq sent me to an Endodontic colleague of his who luckily was able to see me right away (for the life of me I can’t remember his name). I had been worried that he would just send me away with anti-biotics to get the swelling down, but he said that as I was in so much pain he would be able to do it immediately. Now, I can’t say that it was a pleasant procedure this time, I actually left the office looking like I’d gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson and really needed Dear hubby’s support to walk out to the car as I was so woozy with meds and pain BUT the dentist WAS very considerate and took his time making sure I was OK throughout and, along with Dr Rafiq, called me the following couple of days to check up on me.
Dr David Schmidt DDS
General & Cosmetic Dentist
More recently of course, I started work (October 2011) with Dr David Schmidt’s office as a Hygiene Coordinator/Receptionist (https://www.facebook.com/ypsilantidentist). NOW, I am learning a LOT more about dentistry as well as having access to wonderful dental care. For the first time since I was pregnant with my now 27 year old son, I had my teeth cleaned!!! In the UK it seems that dentists are not so much into preventative care as much as reactive care. I have never, other than when pregnant, been offered an opportunity to visit a Dental Hygienist ! Thankfully, I must do a pretty good job of cleaning my teeth as Claudia, who did the cleaning, was pretty impressed with the state of them. I had actually been quite embarrassed prior to the appointment as I thought my teeth would be terrible. When Dr Dave (my boss) did his exam, he told me that I needed a couple of fillings and possibly a root canal. Now this I DID know having been told this before I left the UK, but had never got around to it. So he did the fillings and had a proper look and attempt at the root canal, before deciding that I’d be better off seeing a specialist and referring me to his colleague, Dr Brian Meade, an Endodontist.
Dr Brian Meade DDS, Endodontist
Another great dentist…….who is also a great gift giver. Last week we got a cake delivered to our office and the week before, chocolates!! His thank you’s for the referrals that Dr Dave sends him for root canal work . But, I digress……the only problem I have with Dr Meade is that his TV showing what he is doing (he wears a TV camera on his head and uses a microscope to do his work on you) is BEHIND you – I think it should be on the ceiling because I’d love to watch what he’s doing. Medical/Dental procedures have never bothered me – even when I’m the patient!!! My boss, Dr Dave came down to the office (Brian’s office is downstairs from our in the same building) and watched the procedure and checked I that was doing OK.
All in all, and notwithstanding the fact that medical and dental insurance DOES cost more than the NHS, the care that you receive here is infinitely better and more patient oriented than it is in the UK. At least it certainly has been in my own experience. Yes, the facilities here are usually in building that look more like fancy hotels. Yes, a lot of offices are equipped with the latest technology. Yes, there are lot more individual Doctors/Dental offices around. BUT quite frankly, even though the related costs are higher it STILL does not excuse the general lack of ‘caring’ that you get from the NHS Doctors or Consultants in the UK. A simple, “How are you” in a caring voice. A bedside manner that makes you feel like you’re cared about. Patients, whether they are rich, poor, covered by insurance (NHS or private) or indeed welfare patients are still patients. They are real people with real feelings and real ailments and should be always treated with consideration, concern and a sense of being important as a person. The NHS could take a few pointers in the after care of patients – it wouldn’t hurt for a follow up, or for that matter take up much time.