Successfully working with doctors and other health care providers can be a challenge for many people. It is for me. We know they have studied the kinds of things we are experiencing and will likely have solutions for us that would ease our recovery. How can we work with them to make sure this happens?
I have been dealing with a chronic health condition for some months. My doctors have been as frustrated as I have been in trying to find a solution to a problem that should have been quite easy to remedy. One day, as I was thinking about it, I realized that perhaps I wasn’t making it easy for my doctors to find a solution or solutions, that I might have been leaving out pertinent pieces of information and descriptions of how I am feeling and assuming somehow this other person would “know”.
When I go to the doctor, I always have this feeling that I should not complain or even talk too much or take up too much of their time. With that kind of an attitude, I wasn’t making it easy for my doctors to help me. So, the next time I went to one of my doctors, I asked him what I, as the patient, could do to assist him in doing the detective work that would help me feel better. He told me that it is important for people to know what they want from the doctor before they go, and then share that information with the doctor right away. He told me about a patient he had recently who was very difficult for him. He said it wasn’t until the visit was almost over that he was able to figure out why she had made an appointment and why she had come in. Then he could begin helping her.
For instance, when I went to the doctor, I wanted to find out what was causing my digestive distress and work with him to set up a step-by-step recovery plan. Other examples of reasons why you might go to the doctor are:
Then it is important to describe for the doctor, in as much detail as possible, what you are experiencing. When I went to my doctor, I assumed he/she would know with a rather minimal description. It wasn’t working. I learned that the doctor wants as much detail as possible. That detail will help her or him more accurately assess the situation and develop possible solutions.
The doctor also needs to know how much this problem is impacting your life. If you haven’t been able to work or take care of your children, the doctor needs to know. He or she needs to know if what you are experiencing is interfering with your life, if it is keeping you awake at night, if it is keeping you from exercising.
Before you go to the doctor, it will help to have a clear idea of what you want and what you don’t want. Perhaps you want a medication adjustment, or specific test, or a referral to a specialist. Perhaps you know you don’t want medications, surgery or a referral to a specialist. Let the doctor know and then listen to their recommendations. It is up to you whether or not you will follow their recommendation but it is up to you to hear it.
I started thinking about all of this before a recent doctor’s appointment. I decided that the best thing for me to do was to write a list of words that describe my situation, how long it has been going on, what I have been doing myself to help myself feel better, what supplements I have taking and health care preparations I have been using, and the things I have been doing based on my last visit—and how each of those is working. I included information about times when I felt better and times when I felt worse, and what I thought that might be related to. I also shared information that I learned that I felt was pertinent-things I learned on the web, in books and magazines, and from my peers. This was quite a project but it really helped me focus on what I wanted and needed. I rewrote it several times to make it easy to understand and made it into a list of points so I could take it with me to my next doctor’s visit.
To make sure I had all the pertinent information, I also filled out the “Information to Take to Medical Appointments” Hand-out in the WRAP Facilitator Manual.
At the next doctor’s visit, the first thing I did was tell the doctor what I wanted out of the visit. Then I described exactly how I had been feeling, what I had been doing about it in detail, and how it had been working. The doctor was very attentive, taking notes as I spoke. I shared with him my notes and my Information for the Physician from. I told him I had been using my “WRAP for Life” as my personal guide to my recovery process. Because I used that strategy, the discussion that followed was much more fruitful and I left feeling like we had a plan and that there was hope that I would soon be feeling better.
If this is more than just a check-in with your doctor, you may want to take along a trusted supporter. This person can remind you of things (it is so easy to forget when you are in the doctor’s office), ask for more information if they don’t understand, and ask clarifying questions that might make it easier for everyone to understand.
This way of being with your health care providers may be different from the way you have worked together in the past. Be patient. It will take time for everyone to get used to it. If it improves with each visit, you will be the winner.
During this time when I have this specific health issue, I find that I have to update and revise my Wellness Recovery Action Plan often, especially after doctor’s visits when I usually have a list of new Wellness Tools to try. I add to my list of Wellness Tools, and then if I find they don’t work for me, I delete them. My Daily Maintenance Plan has been undergoing almost weekly revisions and my list of “things I might need to do” has grown longer. I am looking closely for Triggers that might be causing or exacerbating my situation and have a strong plan of how I am going to quickly take action if any of these Triggers occur. I have also become much more aware of Early Warning Signs that suggest I might be beginning to have more difficulty, and have a strong action plan that tells me exactly what to do if I notice them. strategies to try. When Things are Breaking Down I am in acute distress. But, because I have been working closely with my doctor in a more positive way, I have Wellness Tools I can use to calm the situation. I am reviewing my Crisis Plan more often to make sure it will work for me if my condition gets much worse and I cannot get it under control. And, thinking ahead, I review possible Post Crisis options.
I have talked to my doctors, and will continue to, refining this method of getting the most out of my doctor’s visits and using what I have learned so that I feel healthy and happy again as soon as possible.
If you have stories of how you have worked successfully with health care providers, please do share them with us, either by e-mail to info@WRAPandRecoveryBooks.com or Facebook at the Mary Ellen Copeland Facebook page.