I’ve had several great doctors and several doctors whose bedside manners were non-existent. One doctor, Dr. B., comes to mind. When the family and I first moved to South Florida, I was suffering from massive headaches and and just felt pain in my sinuses. I mentioned it to my doctor at the time, who looked at me like I was the idiot of all idiots.
“Did you go to medical school?” His voice trembled and revealed an underlying anger I was not prepared for.
“No, but I’ve had allergies and sinus problems all my life…” my voice trailed as he glared at me.
“That’s right. I’m the doctor here. I know you don’t have symptoms related to allergies and sinus problems.”
As his voice cut through me, I sat there with my hands in my lap unable to look him in the eye.
I was angry at this doctor, but even angrier at myself for not standing up to him. Years later this experience has made me a better patient. It’s difficult to diagnose someone when the doctor doesn’t have all the information. By seeing a doctor, you are establishing a relationship, and like any relationship, a doctor-patient relationship requires great communication.
The day before your appointment, write down everything you want to talk to your doctor about. List all the symptoms you’re experiencing. If you see any patterns in when you experience these symptoms, write it down. Don’t forget to write down how long these symptoms have lasted.
If you’ve had these symptoms before and were treated successfully or unsuccessfully, write it down. The more information you can provide him, the better his diagnosis will be. When the doctor asks why you’re there, you can quickly scan your list and let him know everything that ails you. Make sure you address each one of your health issues and make sure your doctor understands the core problems.
If you don’t feel he has a clear understanding of your symptoms, let him know immediately. When the doctor makes a diagnosis, ask questions about it. How did he come to his conclusion? Is there something in your lifestyle that may be causing these symptoms?
If the doctor prescribes you medication, ask him about possible side affects. Can you take this medication with your current medications? If he suggests testing, ask him how these tests will strengthen his diagnosis.
Do you need to make any preparations before the test? If your doctor is using vocabulary or phrases you don’t understand, politely stop him and have him explain everything to you in a way you understand.
The doctor isn’t dumbing things down for you — he’s merely choosing vocabulary that is more pedestrian, which you’ll be able to grasp quickly without having to decipher his words. When dealing with more prescient health issues that either cause a lot of anxiety or flat out scare me, I take the husband along. Bringing someone with you during your appointment can do wonders for your confidence.
If you miss something the doctor tells you, your friend or family member can remember the conversation with you. They can also help remind you of questions or symptoms you’ve forgotten.
If nothing else, this person can be a hand to hold. Communicating with your doctor and being honest with him can bring you closer to better health. By the way, I finally went to an allergist who discovered through various testings that I am allergic to many of the indigenous plants and trees of South Florida.
My sinuses are a mess and have been for years. I now take monthly allergy shots which I will have to endure for several years until my body has finally built up a resistance against these allergens. Who’s an idiot now, Dr. B.?
Pic of the Day: my missi