Finding a provider who “gets it” (and what to do if yours doesn’t)

The following is written for the Cleo app by Dr. Joy Cooper, OBGYN and co-founder of Culture Care, a telemedicine service that connects Black women with Black doctors. We hope the content is helpful for all birthing people, and specifically those who identify as Black. Read more about Cleo’s partnership with Culture Care and our commitment to birth equity.

Maya Angelou was quoted saying in a 2003 interview, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Providers who “get it” will make you feel good, feel cared for, and feel like you matter. Here are some examples about how you can identify such a provider.

1. They know how to listen: A provider that is attentive to your needs will actually listen to you articulate them. They will not talk over you or rush you as you express your concerns. They will repeat what you said back to you to ensure that they heard you correctly. They will ask you follow-up questions.

2. They know how to teach: In order to be effective at relating your health information to you and inspire you to make good decisions, your provider must be able to teach you. Providers should be educators—they should explain any diagnoses, recommendations, or medications they have given you, and supply you with reading information and resources to continue your learning after the encounter.

3. They know how to counsel: Lawyers are also referred to as counselors because they advise their clients on what they should do based on their own expertise. Your provider should do the same. There is no one way to treat conditions or one strategy to maintain your health, but you should have a provider who can properly counsel you on your options and recommend a plan.

They should be able to support the reasons why they recommend a particular medication or plan over others. They should not simply tell you what to do, like a parent to a child, but do their best to inform and convince you as a member on your own care team. What can you do if your provider doesn’t do these things? You can switch! In most scenarios, you can switch providers as long as your healthcare plan allows it. Shopping for a new provider can be as simple as asking for a second opinion.

Try to be honest with other providers about why you are seeking an additional opinion, and why you did not connect well with your other provider. Finding the right provider is vital for your health and well-being, so don’t be afraid to ask around and trust your intuition about who is the right fit for you.

Racially concordant care is essential to birth equity and improving outcomes for BIPOC birthing people. Through partnerships with experts like Dr. Joy Cooper, Cleo helps employers provide equitable care for all employees, improving health outcomes and creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Learn more about how Cleo can serve the working families you support.