I’ve had numerous doctors over my 30 years. By my count, I have seen and been treated by:
– 5 pediatricians
– 3 OB/GYN’s
– 3 Family Medicine Physicians
– 2 Nurse Practitioners
– 1 Orthopedic Surgeon
– 3 Physical Therapists
– And countless emergency room physicians
As a child, my parents bore the responsibility of communicating with my physicians. But they didn’t really advocate for my health – they simple took what the doctor told them at face value, filled the prescription, administered the medicine, and moved on.
I’m not knocking my parents for this – it’s the way they were raised. They grew up in a time when physicians were heavily revered and to question them went against social norms. As a result, when I became an adult I followed their lead.
But that has all changed within the last year. I have blogged about my tummy troubles (link here), my weight gain (link here), and my concern for my health. I started asking questions of my physician and when I felt as though my concerns were being dismissed, I found a new doctor.
And I love him!
I’ve blogged about my new doctor’s willingness to engage in a true conversation with me about my health. On my very first visit, we spent nearly 30 minutes discussing my lifestyle –my workout schedule, the foods I eat, etc.
I am glad that I can have an open dialog with my doctor. But getting comfortable asking questions and even expressing disagreement about treatment options did not come naturally to me. I always feared that my doctor would feel as though I am second guessing him. I never wanted that, after all he has the training and extensive knowledge. However, as he says “You know your body better.” So sharing my thoughts with him actually helps me define a better course of treatment for me.
How did I get comfortable talking with my doctor? Here are a few tips:
- Make a list: Doctors are busy, patients are busy. And often the visits can seem rushed. Before visits with my doctor, I like to make a list of my current symptoms, changes in my health since the previous visit, and any questions I have. Then I present that list to the doctor when he comes in. It serves as a reminder to us both to address the issues.
- Ask questions: When my doctor prescribed an appetite suppressant for me, I asked a lot of questions. What are the side effects? How long do you foresee me taking it? What is our plan of action if this does not work? The world of medicine can be overwhelming, so ask questions to clarify if you don’t understand!
- Follow-up with your doctor: My doctor is nice enough to accept Facebook messages from me. So when I got home from a visit and realized I had forgotten a question, I sent him a message and he followed up with me. If you doctor isn’t on Facebook, contact his office and leave a message for him if you have any additional questions, you symptoms change, etc.
Do you have an open dialogue with your doc? Any other tips for talking with physicians to advocate for your health?