The Confident Self-Advocate
I have dubbed this year “the year of the antibiotic” because we have picked up more prescriptions from the pharmacy than ever before. Tooth infections, skin infections, infection, infection, illness. I have never disinfected or spent this much time in and out of doctors’ and dentists’ offices. After all of these visits, I’ve picked up on some similarities no matter where we go; medical visits are short. The average doctor’s visit is only fifteen minutes, meaning you will spend more time in the waiting room than sitting face-to-face with that professional. It can all be a whirlwind, and some critical details about what is going on may be missed if you are unprepared. I recently took my son to a routine appointment and felt the alarms go off in my head.
While I would like to tell you that writing this article makes me the best advocate for myself and my kids regarding medical care, that is not the truth. I let the doctor leave the examination on this visit without asking them further questions. It wasn’t until I was in the parking lot that I could convince myself not to worry what the doctor or staff thought of me – Will they feel that I’m obnoxious? Will they believe that I am impolite? Am I being ignorant? Did I hear the doctor correctly? I decided that I didn’t care what they thought. The only thing that mattered was that I felt confident that my child was cared for, that their health would be maintained, and that I had a plan moving forward. So I grabbed my child’s hand, and we crossed the parking lot again to ask for some more answers. And I got them! I walked out feeling much better about the situation and with a clear plan for care for my child. The doctor before you may be a medical expert, but you are the expert on YOU (or your child).
Here are some things I have started implementing into my visits to ensure I am making the most of them.
- I come prepared. Before I head to the appointment, I jot down notes about when the symptoms started, if anything makes the symptoms better or worse, and anything that I have done to help alleviate symptoms- including dosages of over-the-counter medications and the last time they were taken.
- Take Notes. I keep that paper or notebook I mentioned before in the exam room, take notes as the doctor, and discuss concerns. As much as we try to convince ourselves that we will remember things, it doesn’t always happen. Notes are beneficial to keep your care plan clear after you have returned home from your visit.
- Prioritize your concerns. It is worth mentioning again that the average face-to-face time that you will get with a medical professional is fifteen minutes. And in my recent experiences, you get even less. Ask your questions in order of importance, so if your time gets cut short, the things you are most concerned about will have already been addressed.
- Remember that you are in control of your appointment. There is no need to be embarrassed. You will not go wrong with being honest- with both yourself and the doctor. If you feel misunderstood, tell them. If you do not agree with or understand something the doctor is saying, tell them that, too. Still trying to figure out where to start- I’ve got you covered. Some of my most frequently used questions to help me better understand what is going on in my appointment and what will happen after the appointment are:
- “Why are these tests or medications necessary?”
- “When can I expect to get the results of these tests?”
- “How much does this cost/will insurance cover this treatment?”
- “When should I expect to start feeling better with this treatment?”
I hope that your year is healthier than mine has been. But suppose you find yourself sitting in a waiting room or two, crummy and wondering how this doctor’s visit will go. In that case, I hope these tips will make you feel confident on your recovery journey.