If I am Injured, How do I know What Kind of Doctor to go to?
You are on your way to the store. You are mentally reviewing your list. The light turns green, you start to move into the intersection and POW out go the lights. When you come to, you don’t recognize where you are. There are people around you talking to you but what they are saying does not really make sense. You come to realize you have just been in a car wreck with a drunk driver. You feel back pain. You wonder do I have a back injury, do I have a spinal cord injury? You try to move your arms and legs, you are worried about paralysis. You know that people are telling you not to move, but it is like you are in a dream, with smoke, and vapor before your eyes. Do I have a brain injury? You cannot feel your foot, is it still there? Has there been an amputation? You feel your heart start to race, and your breath is getting shallow, but is much faster. You are on a stretcher, being put into an ambulance. At the hospital you are checked out, starting to feel a little more like yourself, but you are sore, and scared. What is in store in your medical future?
In most hospitals, when you are released, whether from the Emergency Room, or from the hospital you will receive instructions about what to do. The instructions are both general (you may feel pain for the next few days) to specific (you have suffered a brain injury, you should see your doctor if you have the following symptoms). What you are really being told is that the hospital is likely only the first step on your road to recovery. It is essential to bear in mind, for the benefit of your health, that you should always do your very best to follow the medical recommendations you receive. Some people (men more likely than not) will put on the tough guy face and think they will “power” through it. They think, “I’m tough, I don’t need a doctor”. Big mistake. There may be things happening in your body that require ongoing care and treatment. If you miss that treatment, your body may not heal properly, and in the some cases, get worse.
The first line of defense in our system is to see your primary care physician (also called family doctor, or internist) within a few days of the collision. This is especially true if you do not have broken bones or other identified problems that require the help of a specialist. Your primary care physician (PCP) will examine you and offer you treatment options which might include medications, rest, and physical therapy. The PCP will assess your progress after these treatments and if in their opinion you need further care they may recommend that you see a specialist.
If you are injured severely enough in a semi tractor trailer accident or in a highway accident the hospital will assign doctors to see you in consultation. The main doctor, overseeing your care is often called a Hospitalist. This doctor may ask other doctors, with various specialties, to see you. These are sometimes called consultations. It may turn out that you will continue to see one or more of these doctors after you are released from the hospital.
Always follow your doctors recommendations. If you are concerned about these recommendations, get a second opinion, but please, do not just do nothing. Good accident lawyers and injury lawyers do not try to influence your medical care, or direct your medical care. Your lawyer is a specialist in the law, not in medicine. If a lawyer attempts to get involved in your medical care, be wary. It is not their place.
Next time we will talk about acute care versus post acute care versus long term care.