“Do something your future self will be thankful for,” -unknown
Imagine, two individuals, experiencing similar chronic health issues go to the doctor’s office. The first one roughly explains their symptoms, doesn’t feel prepared, is in a deep desire for relief, and feels completely overlooked by the doctor. The second person arrives at the doctor’s feeling confident enough to explain their physical and emotional symptoms, has a goal in mind for the appointment, and gives off an assertive attitude. Which one do you think got the treatment plan that would impact them positively?
The scenario portrays two people with the same health concerns but approached it in a noticeably different manner. The whole phenomenon of “fast medicine” has left people to think simply seeing a doctor is more of a one-sided experience. Like having a conversation, the relationship between a doctor and patient needs to be a well thought out dialogue.
How can you be the self-advocating person # 2 at the doctor’s office?
The doctor’s job is to assist you in gaining health and relief, but they need your input just as you need theirs. To be a self-avocating patient, it counts to be self-knowing of your condition. A week or days before your appointment, write down personal health notes. At the top of your paper, explain what you want to get out of the meeting with your doctor. Be as specific as possible. Ask yourself these questions, answer them with complete trueness, and you will show the doctor you want to be helped and willing to work towards complete health.
- When did your symptoms start?
- Are your symptoms different at night/day or do you feel more limited in daily activities due to your health?
- Most bothersome symptom(s) *then list all other symptoms*
- Does your condition align with any family history of xyz?
- Any health triggers such as foods or activities? *make a food diary of the past week*
- Recent stress or feelings of depression?
- Any trauma your doctor should know? Physical, emotional, or environmental.
It’s all about mindset
The doctor’s office can be an anxiety-ridden place for some people. Once you step into the office and sit down with your doctor your mind can feel like it’s gone blank. To prevent this from happening, start at the beginning. Before you even go into the building, look over your prewritten health notes and go over your objective for the appointment. Take deep breaths and fill your presence with confidence, ready to take on what may come.
The third set of eyes
Your doctor does not have the ability to see you in your daily life to fully get a grasp on what your health dynamic is. We as humans can be forgetful and overlook the small aspects others might notice. If possible, think about taking someone with you to your appointment. Pick someone who lives in your households such as a spouse, parent, sibling, friend, or partner. At the appointment, once you and the doctor are done talking, the third pair of eyes and ears can share anything you or the doctor might have missed. Sometimes, breakthrough questions can come from this person.
Getting to know who’s hands your in by questioning
If the doctor you are seeing is not your primary doctor, it is okay to take your time and ask them questions. You are the one paying for the visit and have the right to interview the doctor as they interview you! For example, you could ask them how long they have been working in their specialty or where they went to school. Going about this can help relieve anxiousness and create light-hearted small talk.
Once the small talk is over and the meat of the appointment is commencing, remember to ask as many questions as needed for your understanding. If being prescribed a medication, procedure, or lab test, ask the doctor the purpose and side effects behind it. On the other hand, if they refuse a test you want to be run, make sure to have them put it in your discharge papers that test was not run. Documents matter! Tactics like this will give the doctor the impression you want is best for you. Unfortunately, a lot of conventional medicine wants you to be medicated when not needed and drain your wallet. Questions help save time, money, and maybe even your health!
Not every doctor will be understanding or even compassionate. Remember to be assertive as possible and be ready to repeat yourself of any concerns or questions if your point is not getting across to them. If you feel uncomfortable in the care of your doctor, after having an appointment with them regarding your health, it is perfectly fine to see a new doctor. Additionally, keep in mind to have clear judgment and an open mind. Doctors want to help deep inside but at times it can be frustrating. Your health journey is a long and rocky road, but with the proper help, mindset, and advocacy, anything is possible