5 ways to become your own health care advocate
When it comes to your health, speak up. University of Phoenix College of Nursing instructors Antoinette Dziedzic, MSN, and Wanda Chukwu, MSN, say that in-depth communication with health care providers and support staff is crucial in determining how to best approach personal medical issues. Read on for five ways you can make sure you get what you need in your next doctor’s visit, whether it’s a checkup or a more in-depth discussion of a specific issue:
Study before your appointment.
Prepare for your next medical appointment by checking reliable online health resources to review the latest research or brush up on fundamentals, recommends Dziedzic, nursing campus chair at the University of Phoenix Detroit Campus and former president of the Michigan Public Health Association. Chukwu adds that patients will then be better able to ask appropriate, helpful questions when meeting with their health care providers.
Ask any and all questions.
“Don’t be intimidated by any of the health care team,” Dziedzic advises. “It is your life, and you deserve to know the answers.” Chukwu, who owns the Detroit-based company Assertive Health Care Services, suggests asking pharmacists, nurses and physicians questions concerning treatments or any prescribed medication’s purpose, proper dose, side effects and drug interactions. Also, don’t hesitate to inquire if any alternative treatment options exist.
Track down a receptive health care provider.
Find a health care provider you feel comfortable confiding in about your health prognoses and concerns, even if this means seeking second and third opinions. “The health care provider should be able to effectively communicate with the patient and willingly become an active participant in the [patient’s] overall well-being,” Chukwu says.
Keep proper documentation.
Keep a health journal, in addition to an organized file of your medical conditions and treatments, Dziedzic says. A journal can help you organize and keep track of symptoms, changes in health and general wellness habits. You can also jot down questions as they come to mind. This helps you stay abreast of any changes, responses to treatment or other medical details that, in turn, you can share with your health care provider.
Express your emotions.
Although your first instinct may be to lean on family and friends for emotional support if you have health concerns, you should also share your feelings with your health care provider. If you’re struggling with depression, for example, your doctor might recommend a support group. “Physical ailments can cause anxiety and stress,” Dziedzic notes, “so it is equally important to manage the psychological and emotional aspects of your condition.”