My best friend and fellow blogger, generously offered to write a guest post for me on a topic we both feel passionate about – health care. She’s an athletic trainer who works at both a high school and in a clinic. I’m a medical librarian who knows too well what goes on in a doctor’s mind when (s)he steps into the room. Her thoughts on the matter are much more clearly arranged than mine ever could be because she has daily interactions with patients.
Going to the doctor can be a very nerve wracking experience. I think it’s mostly because we generally see a doctor because something is wrong with our body and we don’t know how to fix it. So we place the fate of this one body we were given into the hands of some guy/girl who basically just spent a lot more time in school than you did. Don’t get me wrong, I believe doctors can be a wonderful, valuable, life-saving resource. But it’s very important that you remember that doctors are just that, a resource, not all-knowing gods. Doctors do not know everything. They know a LOT, but not everything.
Now before you go thinking I’m all anti-doctor, please know that I value and respect doctors very much, but I think that we as the patients far too often place all of our eggs in their basket. We as patients must be proactive and vigilant and be responsible for our own healthcare. You must be your own advocate. No one cares about your health as much as you do.
So now the question is this: In a world of greedy insurance companies and giant hospitals and urgent care centers that give any meds to anybody, how on Earth are people who are not health care professionals supposed to be their own healthcare advocates?! Well, here’s my advice on how to do just that.
1. Be clear about why you’re there.
Doctors are so rushed these days, trying to squeeze in so many patients, that most only schedule 10 minutes for each patient. You may feel as though you’re holding him up if you take too long to explain why you’re there. WRONG! You are the reason he comes to work every morning! You are the patient! YOU are the most important person in that office! If it takes you 15 minutes to explain all the symptoms you’re having, so be it! It is so important that the doctor have all of the information in order to make a correct diagnosis. Don’t short-change yourself just because the doctor seems in a rush. And if she won’t listen?….find a new doctor.
2. If you are presented with a treatment option or medication that you are not comfortable with, speak up!
So many people are worried about “offending” a doctor if they ask questions or ask for a different treatment option. Who cares? Seriously, why are you worried about offending a doctor? Again, if he gets offended and doesn’t want to talk to you about another option (or doesn’t want to explain why this may be the only option, or even truly the best option)….find a new doctor.
3. If you ever feel uncomfortable, speak up!
If something the doctor or staff are doing is making you uncomfortable, speak up! There is absolutely no shame in being uncomfortable, and sometimes healthcare professionals forget that not everyone is as comfortable with bearing their bare ass to get a shot as they might be! There is almost always something they can do to make you more comfortable, even if it’s just saying “I’m so sorry Christine, I know this may be uncomfortable but we’ll get through it as quickly as we can.” And, if they seem offended or think it’s stupid that you’re uncomfortable, tell your doctor. And if he too thinks it’s stupid,…find a new doctor.
4. And most importantly, make sure your doctor is listening to you!
What you tell your doctor may be the most important piece of the puzzle! Sure labs and scans and whatever are really awesome, but what you say is so so so important. If you think your doctor isn’t listening, repeat yourself. If they don’t seem to want to pay attention to a particular symptom you’re worried about, say that outright. “Hey doc, I’m just really worried about XYZ, can we talk about that for a minute?” Any doctor worth his salt will be more than happy to listen and explain to you why you shouldn’t be too concerned about it. Or maybe he’ll even say “oh, I didn’t realize you were experiencing that. Let’s explore it further. And if he won’t?…you guessed it,…find a new doctor.
There are way too many good doctors out there to be wasting your time and health on bad ones. Your doctors and their staff should be doing everything in their power to make you healthy and comfortable (this does not include giving you narcotics whenever you ask, just sayin’).
Just remember, you are the most important part of your healthcare! If something doesn’t seem right, speak up! There’s no harm in asking questions and making sure you do what’s best for you.
Disclaimer: Just as I stated above, you are responsible for your own healthcare. I am not a doctor, just a healthcare worker and an advocate for my own health!