Doctor

5 Things I Learned About Israel: Doctor Edition

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I still haven’t figured out Israel. I’m not confident I ever will, but I feel like every few months I make a teeny bit of progress.

A while back I wrote about a few of the small things I’ve figured out about living here, and I think it’s time for an update.

I’ve spent the last year going to every doctor under the sun, and having more medical procedures in one year than the rest of my life combined. I had surgery on my nose, an EKG, a colonoscopy, an ultrasound, an MRI, I did a sleep study, a million blood tests, and a few others I’ve either forgotten or I’m too embarrassed to mention publicly.

Much of what I did came with great success, like my breathing. Others, not so successful. But one thing’s for absolute sure. I’m learning a lot about how to navigate this crazy system. It’s not easy. Not at all. And I’ve got plenty left to learn, for sure. But I picked up some gems along the way, and I thought I’d share five with you today.

1. The Recommended Doctor

Doctor

Never, ever go to a doctor in Israel without a recommendation. Doing so is a ticket to spending time in an office with someone who doesn’t want you there and has about a zero percent chance of helping you with whatever brought you there that day.

It’s tempting. You go into your insurance provider’s app, look up a doctor, and see twenty listed. Perfect! You can fine-tune the experience to fit your schedule. Next Wednesday at 6PM is the absolute perfect day and time to visit their office, and it’s a five-minute walk from your apartment? Great!

Except it won’t be. More likely than not, you will be in their office for four minutes. They will insult you. They, if you’re lucky, will send you out of their office with a referral to another doctor. And maybe, if you really crack the code, they’ll tell you to take an over-the-counter pain killer. But they will not consider your issues carefully. They will not have a decent bedside manner. And you are likely to either give up, or seek a different doctor anyway.

Look far and wide for a doctor many have had positive experiences with. It is truly the biggest game-changer of the Israeli medical experience.

2. The Patient Doctor

Doctor

Sometimes you find the right doctor, but you can’t book an appointment for a long time to come. So… you go back to Plan A and look for someone with a wide-open schedule.

But that’s when you learn the hard way that there’s a reason for their wide-open schedule. If a doctor is really good, lots of people will want to see them. And there is likely to be a wait. And it is absolutely worth it!

Unless your situation is a dire emergency, always opt to wait for the better doctor. You’ll be happy you did. And you’ll be quite unhappy if you don’t. The best things come to those who wait!

Bonus tip: More often than not, you can get an earlier appointment… if you persistently call to see if there were any cancellations. You’d be shocked how effective this is.

3. The Distant Doctor

Recently I was looking for a specific doctor and I was told there were literally only two in the whole city. This can be quite the problem. Not every specialist field is overloaded in every location. So you might be tempted to go to the “OK” one or the “lesser of two evils”.

This is not recommended.

Travel can be an absolute nightmare in Israel, especially if you don’t have a car. Nevertheless, it’s like waiting. If that’s what you need to do to get a doctor who will actually pay attention to you and legitimately solve your problems, do what you need to do. Grab a book, find a good podcast, and prepare to lose a solid chunk of your day. Because sometimes traversing outside of your city is exactly what you need to do to get the care you need and deserve.

I traveled only 20 minutes to get a doctor who told me I was fat and my wife was stupid. I got what I traveled for. But I schlepped all over the country to get the right care and surgery I needed. And now I get to continuously reap the benefits.

4. The Ditched Doctor

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If you don’t click with your doctor, you should go ahead and find another one. It might seem obvious to some, but it’s certainly not to everyone. Especially if you researched, waited, and traveled to go to a doctor who you for certain would like, how can you be expected to just go ahead and start that process over again?

You do it because you’re that important. And if you don’t have the right practitioner for your needs, you won’t get the care you require. And again, you will remain unhealthy and frustrated.

Just because there are others out there who like and trust your doctor, does not mean you have to. If it’s not working out for you, move along and search for someone who is the correct fit.

5. The Non-American Doctor

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Which leads perfectly into my final point. I recently had a doctor who came highly recommended, and I would later find out the main reason people recommended him was because he was American. English speakers liked going to him because his English was good.

Now listen: My Hebrew is fine. I can get my point across if need be. And I’ve been blessed with an amazing spouse who grew up here and can translate when needed. Nevertheless, I like to conduct all of my medical experiences in English. When it comes to my health, I’m not willing to risk misunderstanding or being misunderstood.

But being an English speaker does not automatically make you a good doctor. And being a non-native English speaker also does not necessarily mean your English isn’t very good.

If you don't click with your doctor, you should go ahead and find another one. Click To Tweet

When I realized my doctor was not the right fit, I switched to an Israeli doctor who was not only better for me in every way, but he was American trained and perfectly fluent in English. He flies under the radar for the English-speaking among us, but finding him is a game-changer for my medical experience here in the Holy Land.

So my final thing I learned in this adventure is to keep your mind wide open. The extremely competent, intelligent, and caring doctor that best fits your personality and needs might have a two-month wait. You might need to drive two hours to get there. And (gasp) the doctor might be Israeli!

Whatever it takes to get better!

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Have I changed my stance on doctors and the medical world? Not at all. I’d still rather Google until my face turns blue and try and solve life’s problems with diet, exercise, essential oils, and apple cider vinegar. But at least I know that when I need a bonafide doctor, decent care is actually available. And I’m getting a hell of a lot closer to figuring out how to make sure I get it!

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