If you go to a college far from home, an important adjustment will be finding a new Crohn’s doctor when you get there. If your disease is active when you arrive, you may need to find someone right away. On the other hand, if you arrive when you are stable and feeling reasonably well, you may fall into the trap of procrastination. Why bother spending the time to find a new doctor right away, when you are busy getting settled and getting to know your new classmates?
As the old adage says, a stitch in time saves nine. Once we get past the corny rhyme, the wisdom in mending a tear before the cloth unravels—or preventing a problem before it becomes too big—is pretty clear. It’s a good reason to motivate yourself to find that doctor sooner, not later, even when being sick is the last thing on your mind.
Setting yourself up for success
One of the most difficult aspects of Crohn’s disease is its unpredictability. Simply stated, we don’t know when our next flare will occur. So we gain security and peace of mind knowing where to find help if our disease becomes active.
I recommend 2 criteria to guide you when looking for a doctor. First, obviously, find doctors who are competent. Second, look for doctors who have their heart in the right place. (Read more about talking with your doctor about Crohn’s in with Crohn’s in the Winter 2010 issue of Crohn’sAdvocate magazine.)
Do your research of course, but often you will just know these doctors when you see them. A good doctor will help you when you are sick; a really good doctor will support you in your efforts to stay well.
If you feel lost getting started in the process of finding a new physician, some advice from Dr. David Rubin may serve as a valuable compass in your search. Dr. Rubin discusses treatment goals to keep in mind, and common misconceptions about living with Crohn’s disease.
Bringing your doctor up to speed
When you meet with that new doctor, you’ll want to bring some information about yourself and your health history with you. In high school your mom or dad may have come with you to doctor appointments and kept track of Crohn’s symptoms and medications. Away at college, you may not have that immediate outside support, so you’ll want to plan ahead.
The Crohn's Wellness WidgetTM is a convenient way to keep records of symptoms and other important factors that influence your health. You'll be able to see how your health changes over time and to share that information easily with a new doctor.
Remembering how often you used the restroom or how bad your pain was yesterday can, and should, be the last thing you work on memorizing—college will provide you with plenty of other information to cram!
Getting the information you need
You’ll want to leave your new Crohn’s doctor’s office with some practical information as well. Be sure you know how to reach your doctor in case of an emergency. Keep the doctor’s office phone and fax numbers handy, and get the phone number for your most accessible pharmacy. These details can get lost amidst the fun and frenzy of college life, but you will save yourself both time and worry by finding them out before you need them.
Finding good healthcare can give you needed security during your college transition. It will give you peace of mind when you are feeling good, and important support when you do have a symptom flare. Seeking out the care you need is part of establishing your own support network, an empowering step in learning to live on your own, away from home.