You’ve been going to the same prosthetist for 10 or maybe 20 years. This person may or may not have been the one who held your hand at the beginning of your “amputee life”, but a close bond has been established and working with them is always a breeze. Instead of feeling like a chore, going to your prosthetist for countless checkups and fittings feels easy—like seeing a friend to catch up with what’s going on in their lives. This is because your prosthetist has become a good friend to you. However, the inevitable is bound to happen—your prosthetist announces that they will retire soon.
You may understandably feel any of the following: disappointment, confusion, even anger that your prosthetist decided to retire from practice. Aside from this, in the larger scheme of things, there are sobering realities to consider about the profession, like the stark shortage of prosthetists.
In 2017, there are 2.1 million people living with limb loss in the US, and that number is expected to double by 2050, which can be attributed to the rise of chronic diseases like diabetes. Each year, it is estimated that there are 185,000 amputations, which means that around 300 to 500 amputations are performed every day. In spite of these rising numbers, the ratio of prosthetists to amputees in the US in 2012 is an alarming 2.4 prosthetists to every 100,000 amputees. Clearly, there aren’t enough to go around.
While this may not seem like the light at the end of a tunnel for you, this only shows that saying goodbye to your prosthetist requires a well-thought-out process that will be of great benefit to you and your continued care.
We’ve outlined some tips to help you get through this tough time, and hopefully, find another prosthetist that you can trust.
1. Sit down and talk with your retiring prosthetistYou might not be able to stop your prosthetist from retiring, but you can make the transition a fairly pleasant and seamless one. Set aside a time to talk about the essentials—from their projected retirement timeline to the logistics of transferring your medical records to your new prosthetist. Here are some questions you need to raise:
- What is the exact date of your retirement?
- Will another prosthetist be replacing you at this facility?
- Based on my medical history and location, can you recommend a replacement prosthetist for me?
- How will my new prosthetist obtain my medical records?
- Is there anything I should do now to help ease the transition to my new prosthetist?
Make sure to ask all the hard questions now while you still can.
2. Find a suitable replacementIt may seem like a daunting task but finding a suitable replacement for your prosthetist doesn’t have to be a painful process. You only need to know who to ask and where to look.
- Ask your retiring prosthetist for their recommendation and to make referrals. No one else knows your medical history than your current prosthetist, and they may know someone who will be the right fit.
- Ask members of your support group. If you’ve been a part of the same support group for a while, you may find that you are quite familiar with the struggles that the other members have gone through and how their prosthetist handled it. Your next prosthetist might just be one recommendation away.
- Do your research online as well as through the American Board of Certification, Prosthetics.
- Check your insurance provider for a list of healthcare providers in your area.
- Check out Prosthetistfinder.org
Aside from these, make sure to check their credentials and be willing to go in for a few sessions with the sole purpose of finding out if a particular prosthetist is the right one for you. Some of the things you need to consider with each visit is how does the prosthetist make you feel. Do you feel cared for? Do they attentively listen to you? Are they taking your thoughts in consideration before making a decision? Establishing a good relationship with your new prosthetist is going to take some time, but the first few meetings should give you enough material to decide whether to choose a particular prosthetist or continue looking for one.
3. Secure your prosthetic medical records
As a general rule, physicians keep medical records of their patients for at least seven years. But once your prosthetist retires, it may be a bit difficult to get a hold of them to ask for your medical records. Access to your most recent records is an important part of changing prosthetists. Your new prosthetist will need to know the type of components you use and their respective warranty periods. As the retrieval of medical records is a notoriously long process, placing your request as soon as your prosthetist tells you of their retirement will save you from a lot of unnecessary hassle.
4. Prepare to say goodbye to your ProsthetistThe groundwork for your new prosthetist has been set, and the time has come to say goodbye to your prosthetist who has become more of a good friend than just a medical professional. Here are some things you can do to express your appreciation for their years of service as well as friendship:
- Write a letter. In an era of instant electronic communications and social media, a letter can require a bit of effort. But treat this letter as a gift in itself. Take your time. Write a thoughtful letter that tells your prosthetist why they mean so much to you. Reminisce some of the good times; your prosthetist would greatly appreciate that. And wish them well in their future endeavors.
- Say it in person. If you’re not the letter writing type, you can also treat your prosthetist to lunch or coffee. Use this moment to tell them how much you appreciate everything they have done for you, just as you would to a friend.
- Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. Don’t hesitate to give your prosthetist a hug if you are a hugger. Don’t be afraid if the tears come; let them fall. Don’t hold back.
Set your new prosthetist up for successYou’ve tied up loose ends and laid the groundwork for a seamless transition to your new prosthetist. Set them up for success by taking the time to prepare for your first meeting. There are many things a patient can do to ensure a smooth transition, such as bringing your most current medical records, as well as a detailed patient history. Having your prosthetic medical history at their fingertips will make it easier for them to assess your present situation. While these documents may also be delivered by your previous healthcare provider to your new one, you never know how long it will take, and it’s always better to be prepared.
During the first prosthetist appointment, let your new prosthetist know the names and numbers of other doctors and specialists you’re seeing. This type of information helps if they need to work with, say, your physical therapist on something. Other helpful pieces of information include a list of medications, vitamins and supplements you are taking, as well as the name and phone number of the pharmacy you go to.
It’s also a good idea to prepare to ask your new prosthetist some questions. Don’t hesitate to interview your new prosthetist. This way, you get to address concerns early on, and build the confidence to create a trustworthy relationship with your healthcare provider.
Allow your new prosthetist to get to know you. Aside from your medical records, volunteer important information during your conversations. If you noticed a new symptom, tell them about it—how it started and how it happens.
Furthermore, the whole getting-to-know-you process also involves offering a bit of personal information so that they remember you, like what your hobbies are or if you’re into a certain sport. This way, they are able to understand you more as a person, which they will find helpful during the course of your prosthetist-patient relationship.
Saying goodbye to your prosthetist of many years is understandably hard, but when you resolve to keep calm and focused during the entire transition, you’ll find that it’s not so bad after all. While you may have lost a prosthetist during the entire process, take heart in knowing that you have gained a friend—one that you have shared many great moments with.
And as for your new prosthetist, resolve to keep an open mind. If you really feel that it’s not going to work, you can always look for a new one. Once you have found the right prosthetist, with whom you feel comfortable working, start laying the foundations of another great prosthetist-patient relationship. After all, they will take you through new phases in your journey.