After some thinking and after discussing things with my boyfriend (a med student) and my mom (who has similar problems to mine), as well as on Twitter, I decided to write this post to hopefully help those like me who need health care and have difficulty in dealing with health care providers.
These are my tips, based on conversations with my boyfriend and mom, and based on what I saw on social media:
- Prepare notes: write, record yourself, or make mental notes of your symptoms, wishes and ideas. This will come in hand during (tightly fitted) appointments.
- Be respectful: General Practitioners, specialists and psychologists are people as well, and while they may not seem respectful to their own patients at times, being disrespectful yourself will most likely not have a positive effect.
- Avoid intimidating them: my boyfriend said that doctors get really intimidated by people who share they know someone who’s also in health care. So sharing this may make health care providers less likely to provide the help they need. The same goes for anger and frustration. While I don’t agree with how this is dealt with, I do recommend avoiding showing your frustration in front of providers. However, sadness and relief seem to be okay and may even help support your case.
- Consider your problems: try listening to your own body. Are you tired? Are you in pain? Providers are likely to ask you to use a scale. Imagine 0 being fully energized and/or in no pain at all, and imagine 10 being so exhausted and/or in pain that you cannot function at all. This is how most doctors use this scale.
- Prepare to be examined: physical examination can be very difficult for both the patient and the doctor. Try to mentally prepare yourself by reminding yourself that in order to receive the right diagnosis and treatment, you may need physical examination. Remind yourself that doctors are there to help you, so if you’re in pain or uncomfortable during your examination, they do wish for you to speak up
- Remember that there are unspoken rules: I’m not saying you have to follow them. I’m saying that many doctors use these unspoken rules. For example, when you make an appointment with your GP, this is usually 10 minutes. Often the unspoken rule is to not share more than one problem. But in fear of taking this too literally, I would advice you to share all the problems you can and try to understand that once the time is up, you need to leave. This is very difficult, even for me.
- Try to make another appointment: often one appointment with a GP, specialist, doctor etc. isn’t enough. Keep this in mind, and if you feel like your first appointment wasn’t enough, try to make a next one. If you explain that you feel you haven’t been able to say everything you wanted to say or that you may need more examinations, providers are very likely to make a next appointment with you.
- If necessary, ask for someone else: since health care providers are humans too, you may come across someone you simply do not like, or they may be making mistakes, or they may not listen to you, etc. In that case, you have the right to ask for another doctor. Please keep this in mind.
- Try to avoid giving into guilt: it feels strange for me to say this, but I often feel guilty for going to my GP and psychologist often. However, their job is to help people. They’re literally paid for it. So, I don’t need to feel guilty. I may still feel guilt, but I try to remind myself not to give into that feeling.
- Remind yourself why you’re seeing the provider: you may start questioning your own problems and needs. Try to avoid this. You know your own body, at least to some degree. You know your own problems and needs, even if you can’t point them out directly. Providers are there to help you with your problems, help meet your needs. If they question these, this is not to invalidate you. It’s to make sure you yourself truly know what it is you’re experiencing and what it is you need.
- Consider sharing any diagnoses – whether professional or self – you might have: for example, if you’re autistic and find it hard to communicate verbally, you may wish to share this either verbally, on paper, recorded, or however you wish. Let the provider meet you in the middle. After all, you’re the patient.
- Prepare to be disappointed: you may have certain expectations. There’s a large chance your expectations won’t be met. Try to prepare for this, so that it will hopefully harm you less or not at all.
If you wish to comment or add to this, feel free to leave me a message either privately here or to this post.