5 Tips For Self-Advocating At The Doctor’s Office

I've learned a few things about self-advocacy since the beginning of my journey with frequent doctor’s visits. It can be intimidating to ask questions during your medical appointments because you often get bombarded with loads of information. Usually, that information includes medical terms or a process that is not part of our everyday lingo.

Understanding that information and trying to formulate the proper question can be challenging especially when you’re at a timed appointment. Other examples are when you are being prescribed a medicine that you do not really understand what it is for and how it will help, or sent to a medical procedure and do not exactly understand how it will help. Here are some tips for self-advocating at the doctor's office:

5 tips for self-advocacy at the doctor's office

Learn your patient rights

In every professional medical office (usually not in plain sight), there should be a sign or pamphlet with some sort of title "Patient Rights." That information is key to understanding your medical office and doctor's responsibility toward the patients. It also explains the responsibility and gives the patient expectations of what to expect during their visit in that office. For example, you’ve been waiting 25 minutes for your appointment to start and you doctor is running late. They now owe you (the patient) that time or that money (depending where you live) because he couldn’t fulfill their responsibility of being respectful of your paying time. Patient rights are not the same in all states so make sure to search your states rules and regulation on patient rights.

Write everything down

Write any concerns or questions you might have before going to your appointment. Many times, we forget to ask questions or address our concerns because we are either too afraid, forgetful, nervous, have too much anxiety, or the conversation simply didn’t go the way you thought. Whatever the case, maybe it is always a good idea to write down your concerns and questions. That way, you are fully content with your appointment. Trust me from experience–just write it down.

Be truthful

I know I used to downplay a lot of my symptoms because I felt ashamed of symptoms like bladder incontinence. The truth is, doctors are not there to judge you, they are there to help you. Trust me: You’re not the only patient in his office with a symptom they’ve never seen.

Don’t mention Google

While Google is a useful resource, Google doesn’t compare with the years of education or experience that a medical professional has had. Reconsider going to your medical office and stating you’ve read an article on Google that you’re dying for breaking a nail. I suggest rewording your concerns.

For example, "I’ve read (not mentioning Google) the I could die if I broke a nail, is that true doctor?" Or "can you give me reliable information on the matter?" That way, you’re not offending your doctor from a 2-minute search engine, but more like politely asking for more reliable resources to read. Remember, almost anything can show up on Google, so don’t believe everything you read. The same goes for social media and YouTube.

Be confident

The doctor needs you as much as you need them. As patients, we don’t always realize that we are a walking paycheck, and we choose the doctors we get to see and treat us. Without patients like myself who live with NMO, there would not be a steady income for some doctors. Let’s face it–we the patients need doctors, but they need us for a paycheck. Although many doctors get in the field because they truly want to help people, other doctors treat you as an invisible being. This is why I always advocate and tell people not to be afraid, and to always shop around for doctors who you feel most at ease with. If you are not happy with your current doctor, shop around for a doctor with a good medical team, a doctor that has good communication skills, a doctor that listens and validates. You are going through a lot and you deserve the best care possible.

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