Whether you live with a complex chronic illness or simply have a list of questions and concerns you want to bring to you doctor – conversations with physicians can be stressful. No matter what your health history is, interactions with doctors can feel high stakes. We normally only have a few minutes with our healthcare practitioners and often have a lot to accomplish in that short period of time. Here are our Top 3 Tips for having successful conversations with your doctor!
1. Come Prepared
Before your appointment, take some time to prepare. Set goals for what you hope to accomplish. Write down your questions, concerns, and items or symptoms you want to discuss. Be as specific as possible in your preparation, so that you know you will leave with the information you need.
Because these appointments can be short, I also try prioritize my questions so that I know we can address the most important questions first. If there are things we don’t have a chance to discuss, I’ll ask to set up a follow up appointment over the phone or in person. This signals to the physician that you have more to discuss, but also that you respect their time.
2. Bring A Friend
If at all possible, it’s ALWAYS helpful to bring someone with you to your appointments. Review your plan and questions with them ahead of time, and ask them to remind you about questions you may forget in the moment.
Friends and family can help by taking notes while you are getting answers to your questions so that information doesn’t slip through the cracks. This is especially important for appointments where you are reviewing test results or discussing treatment plans.
3. Advocate For What You Need.
Doctors are humans too, and they aren’t always going to know the right answer. If there is a treatment you think you would benefit from, a medication that is giving you troubling side effects, or a test you think would help get to the bottom of your symptoms – ask for it! Even if they are not yet experts on that treatment or test, the best doctors are always open to learning new things.
And you disagree with your doctor or if something isn’t clear – ask questions! You should feel comfortable asking as many questions as you need to understand your doctor’s decisions and advice.
Each of these tips are made more helpful by the other. It’s easier to advocate for what you need with a family member or friend in the room. It’s easier to prepare for your appointments when you have a strong sense of what you want to accomplish or try!
Doctors are here to help us, but our current medical system can make it hard to feel connected with even the most well-meaning doctors. Remember that you are your strongest advocate! We hope you will feel empowered seek out physicians who make you feel safe, strong, and secure as you fight to turn your sickness into strength!