Where’s a Doctor When You Need One?

One of the assumptions when moving to a larger metropolitan area is that there will be more access to services. With so many people here, in and around the Bay Area, there is seemingly a service for everything (there’s an ice cream trolley outside my apartment right now!) and competition to keep those services affordable and hold them to a standard of quality.

Consider this assumption debunked! At least in the area of psychiatry. After a revealing trip to my psychologist while I was back in MN for a recent visit, I attempted to make an appointment somewhere in the south bay or peninsula with a psychiatrist in order to start anti-anxiety medication. Understandably, I’m anxious to get started (Go ahead and laugh. I did. :0).

I spent countless hair-pulling hours trying to select a doc because years ago I had a bad experience with a psychiatrist and this isn’t something I want to be changing up frequently. After finally selecting someone and thinking the worst was over, I called up the Stanford Department of Psychiatry only to be told that I had to wait about a month for a call from a scheduling coordinator who would then conduct a phone evaluation and only then would I be able to make an actual appointment with an actual psychiatrist which would most likely run about a month to a month and a half after that. So I was looking at nearly two and a half months or more just to get an appointment with a dr. and then beyond that who knows how long it would take to work out the meds?

Naturally, I asked if they knew of other clinics in the area that may accept patients sooner and was told that the whole area was usually very backed up in this discipline. They did suggest that one could usually get in sooner with a private practice doc, but that it’s possible they may not accept my health insurance. I did call a few of them and was told by one that I may be able to submit the paperwork myself to see if my insurance company would accept it. Knowing how expensive psychiatrists are, that’s a gamble I’m not willing to take.

I’m left to wonder, are all the crazy people migrating to the San Francisco Bay Area or is it living here that makes us crazy? Considering I lost my marbles (if I ever had them) back in adolescence, I’d wager on the former except that that doesn’t seem very likely either. Why is it that the mental health industry is lacking in available drs. here? I realize the population is still growing quickly, but hasn’t the growth been steady for quite some time? From what I’ve heard, Stanford has a well known psychiatry department. Shouldn’t that contribute to the sheer number of drs. in the area as well as the quality of care?

I did put myself on the Stanford waiting list and then promptly made an appointment with a primary care physician hoping she could prescribe something in the meantime. I just returned from that appointment and it was a no go. I don’t remember her exact wording, but it was something along the lines of, ‘the symptoms you are describing are not within the realm of what I feel I could prescribe for’. I took that as a polite way of saying I was too crazy for her to send me out into the world with a prescription and a pat on the back. Then again, maybe that’s the paranoid anxiety talking.

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4 thoughts on “Where’s a Doctor When You Need One?

  1. You know what, I had a terrible time finding a psychiatrist here when I first moved here, too. I HATED the whole process and even looked into some programs that can help ease the process. Unfortunately, I have no idea where I put that information (which I eventually got from an E.R. doctor, because I ended up having to go to E.R ‘cuz my MN psychiatrist refused to refill any rx’s for me) becuase I’ve moved 2 times since then.

    Can’t your old psychiatrist perscribe you something for the meantime which can be filled at a pharmacy out here?

    If not, if it comes down to it, you may have to do the E.R. route…which sucks and is expensive…but at least it provides you with the meds you need asap.

    Best wishes… I know what a bummer this can be…pats on the back :).

  2. @rannyrooster: Geesh, I’m sorry you had such a tough time with it too. I suppose if there’s a shortage of drs. there’s nothing they can do, but it’s so frustrating when you’re in a position in which you feel like you really need some help soon and no matter what you try, you just have to keep waiting.

    I don’t think I’d be so impatient if I wasn’t potentially starting a new job soon. I’m sure it will be fine, but even the possibility of having an adverse reaction to medication while at a new job is freaking me out.

    My dr. in MN is a psychologist so unfortunately she wouldn’t be able to prescribe any medication. Otherwise, I’d definitely give that a shot. I’ll definitely keep the ER in mind, just in case I run into any more snags.

    Thanks for the advice and pats on the back! 🙂 I’ll shoot you an email about writing soon!

  3. Why is it that the mental health industry is lacking in available drs. here?

    Without doing any research or thinking about it too hard, I’m prepared to blame the proliferation of Scientologists out there and their hatred of psychiatry.

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