Establishing good communication with your doctor is essential. The more you communicate with your doctor, the more she/he will communicate with you. Prior to your next doctor visit, consider doing the following:
- Write a list of questions and concerns before your doctor’s visit, and don’t be afraid to pull out the list in front of the doctor or nurse.
- Write down instructions and information your doctor gives you before leaving the office. You can then look them later when you have time to review and absorb the information.
- Repeat instructions back to the doctor or practice what your doctor has shown you while still in the office. Repetition will help both of you know if you understand instructions for taking medications, following orders, or using new equipment.
- Ask for printed material about your diagnoses, medications, or conditions. Most doctors’ offices have printed information on common diagnoses or it can be easily obtained for you.
- If your doctor has said something that you don’t understand, ask for clarification. If it still doesn’t make sense, try asking the doctor’s nurse. Just hearing a different person explain something may help it make sense.
- If you think of questions after you get home, call your doctor’s office immediately. You should be able to get an answer within 24 hours.
- If your doctor is rushed, but you are uncomfortable with what you have been told, make her/him aware of your concern. Your doctor should be willing to talk with you then or schedule a time within a day or two to further discuss the issue.
Remember, communication is a two-way street and it starts with you. Speak up and be frank. Even if it feels difficult at first, it will get easier with practice.
Donald Niepagen (firstname.lastname@example.org)