Finding the "Me" in Health Care Team
Updated: Jun 15, 2018
Let's take a moment to talk about white coat syndrome. Some of you may know the uneasy feeling- the anxiety and worry that comes with going to a doctor's office. You step through the doors and you feel your blood pressure and heart rate rise. The brain starts racing with anticipation of the appointment. For some, the voice gets a little shaky or your lose focus on anything you wanted to ask. Personally, every time I go to the doctor, I get distracted by my nervous sweat. These aren't enjoyable feelings, but can be very common. On numerous occasions, I have have struggled to best manage my care, advocate for myself, and navigate the health care system...and I am in the field! Health care can be a complex world, filled with big words, a fast-paced environment, and big decisions. It is easy to feel small and intimidated by everything going on around you, but I am happy to say, it does not have to be this way.
You always have a say in the management of your care. You do not have to get lost in the process or system. It isn't always easy and you have to share your voice. However, nobody knows you better than yourself, therefore, you are your best advocate.
Learning to advocate for yourself is a life-long tool. It isn't one that should only be turned to during "serious circumstances," but rather, is an active skill all of us should practice. I want you to feel empowered. You have a say in your health and wellness, even during the times you think you don't have any control in what may be happening. Self-advocacy can be difficult and uncomfortable at times, but I hope these tips can assist you as you lead the journey of your health and wellness.
1) Stand Up For Yourself. This may be the hardest point, but I am starting with it because it is probably the most important one. Health care should be treated as a partnership - the health care professional is the consultant, but you carry out the plan. You are the one living with your body, mind, and spirit, making you the expert on you. The health professional is the expert in their field. You have to communicate to direct the health professional's understanding and awareness to your needs and life. Make your care an active discussion, express fears and concerns, and always know you can speak up. This may push your comfort zone, but it gets easier the more you do it. Good health care professionals, the kind you want on your team, will respect you and listen.
2) Ask Questions. The information you get at your appointment is going to help you make informed decisions about what is best for you at the time. Having someone with you to take notes (or taking notes/recording the conversation yourself) can help you collect information. If something is unclear, confirm with the provider what your interpretation of their words are. This will help you both get on the same page. Prior to an appointment or between appointments, write your questions down. This can help you to recall important points you want more information on and can help make the visit more efficient. Sharing your questions with loved ones and other health professionals can help direct the visit, especially when decisions are complex. If there are lingering questions after, don't be afraid to call your provider's office. It is okay to ask for answers.
3) Form a Team. You are the manager of your team. Choose the people you want to help you navigate the road. Always feel comfortable bringing family or friends for support with you on a visit. Sometimes visits can be information overload, having multiple ears listening to the conversations can make sure you get the most out of your care. In addition, there are health care advocacy services available if you want outside support. There are a wide variety of experts in the various avenues of health and wellness. Choose a team that supports your different areas of health, who work together to optimize your care. Respective members can listen, provide perspectives in regards to their expertise, and be an advocate for you. Your team will listen, communicate, and can offer to share the pertinent information of your situation with other members of your team if you want it.
4) Make A Change When Needed. You should be comfortable with your health care team. Your providers should respect, listen, and understand your needs. If you aren't satisfied with a health care professional or want a second opinion, please find another specialist. Remember your health care is a partnership - you have to buy-in and be able to work with your partner. As a health care provider, myself, at the end of the day your health, wellness, and satisfaction is my priority. I want the people I work with to feel their needs are being met, whether I am the provider they choose or not.
5) Determine What Is Important to You. Going into a visit with a plan can prioritize your goals and get the answers you are looking for. Start by keeping a copy of your medical history; understanding where you have been can direct future appointments. In addition, reflecting on the following points can help prepare you for your next visit:
What is the most important thing you want to discuss?
What has been challenging with your current situation?
What is going well and what have been barriers to managing your health?
What are the characteristics you want your team to possess and does your current team possess them?
How can your providers help you?
Always remember - you are the most important member of your team. You have a say and deserve to be heard each step of the way. You are the leader of your health and wellness, the professionals are there to guide and support.