Inside: Wondering how to advocate for yourself at the doctor? Read on to discover how to successfully advocate for yourself and get the answers you need!
Have you recently had a frustrating doctor experience that left you wondering why you made the appointment in the first place?
Do you feel like you’re doctor isn’t listening to you?
Studies show that many doctor/patient relationships are strained because patients—particularly women—do not feel heard. With most people being interrupted by their medical professionals in a matter of seconds, it can be difficult to learn how to advocate for yourself at the doctor.
Not to worry–whether your doctor has great communication skills or the bedside manner of a wet blanket, read on to discover how to advocate for yourself at the doctor and take charge of your health.
How To Advocate For Yourself At The Doctor (& Get Answers You Need)
- What does it mean to advocate for yourself?
- Why is it important to advocate for yourself?
- How To Advocate For Yourself At The Doctor (& Get Answers You Need)
- Final Thoughts on How To Advocate For Yourself At The Doctor (& Get Answers You Need)
What does it mean to advocate for yourself?
Advocating basically means standing up for yourself and making your needs known and an effective way. You’re assertive, but not pushy and people want to work together with you solve problems.
Why is it important to advocate for yourself?
Some doctors thrive on learning more and are driven to get answers that you need. Others may be offended, perceiving your clarifying questions as a dig at their education, skills, or judgment.
Regardless of how difficult a doctor can be, it’s important to advocate for yourself at the doctor, because your life literally depends on it.
For example, before I realized how important advocating for yourself at the doctor is, I blindly said yes to a doctor’s suggestion for surgery. It turns out, that I never needed that surgery and my health actually deteriorated more afterward. You should always make sure that you’re well-educated on your health and feel comfortable that you are making the best decisions for you.
How To Advocate For Yourself At The Doctor (& Get Answers You Need)
Just what can be done to be heard and respected, and how will it impact your care going forward? Here are some solid strategies for advocacy success, which will hopefully mean less stress at the doctor:
Bring someone with you
Ask a friend, family member, or significant other that you trust to go with you to your next appointment. That person can not only serve as an emotional support, but their presence can be calming and more validating, as they can vouch for your symptoms.
Having an additional person present can deter doctors who are inclined to speak over their patients. If you can’t find someone to go with you, there may be some non-profit local groups that can connect you to a medical advocate that can attend the appointment with you.
Prepare for your appointment
Do research ahead of time and prepare yourself to speak about your unique experience and symptoms. You could always practice talking about your symptoms to others so that you are less nervous when it comes time to speak with your doctor.
Think through some of the questions you may want to ask. Write these questions down or send your doctor a message beforehand to ensure that your doctor knows the reason for your visit. Coming prepared will ensure that you are able to use the time effectively and that you are getting the most bang for your buck.
Ask for documentation
If your visit requires testing, imaging, or some other kind of result, always ask for documentation, even if tests come back negative. Being able to bring official documentation with you to a specialist may result in a differing opinion and a pivot with regard to your care.
It would also help to keep a medical binder and symptoms log to document any changes or substances that triggered flares. The more information you can provide your medical team, the more likely it is that you’ll receive an accurate diagnosis when the puzzle pieces begin to fit together.
Research any diagnosis and treatment options
Your doctor may suggest a course of treatment that you don’t feel comfortable with. For this reason, you should always do your own research. Give PubMed a try and find possible alternatives, side effects and efficacy rates. Come prepared with research for future appointments.
Remember, it is your body, your life, and doctors can make suggestions, but it is you that makes the final call when it comes to consenting to care and treatment of your condition.
Never be afraid to get a second opinion
When considering how to advocate for yourself at the doctor, never be afraid to get a second opinion or seek the care and counsel of another doctor. There may be times when you and your doc don’t see eye to eye on your diagnosis and treatment.
It’s more important to get the right care than to stay loyal, especially if they are not helping you. Look for online recommendations, or ask for referrals from family and friends who have had success with great care experiences. Finding the right fit will ensure that you receive the care, help, and healing you need.
Final Thoughts on How To Advocate For Yourself At The Doctor (& Get Answers You Need)
Advocacy can be scary for some, and practice will make perfect. Following these tips will give you a boost of confidence as you learn to speak up for yourself and demand the care that you deserve.
Learn how to advocate for yourself at the doctor, and you’ll find a whole new world of care possibilities opening up for you. Here’s to your optimal health!
Have you had to advocate for yourself at the doctor? What did you do? Tell me in the comments!
Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.
1 thought on “How To Advocate For Yourself At The Doctor (& Get Answers You Need)”
I have been going to doctors and hospitals for over 9 months now and I feel that I am just becoming worse, I’ve had 3 MRIs a cat scan, a barium swallow, about 10 blood draws, and been sent out of town 3 times, twice to nephrology specialists once to an eye doctor in a place called grass-valley under one hundred miles away or so. The last doctor that ordered an MRI left a one-line note saying that he suspected a “subdural ischemic stroke” and no one followed up on this one thing that I sincerely believe is what is happening to me. My doctor (PCP) is out for a couple of months having twins, my nurse advocate is on vacation for about a month after calling me up 4 days prior to tell me that she’s my advocate. I have an appointment to see a neurologist on the 22nd of this month at UCD in Sacramento which is a little over one hundred miles away and honestly, I’m beginning to panic as I’ve lost over 35 pounds now (people are talking…calling me Skeletor, etc., etc.) and I’m beginning to wonder if I will live long enough to speak to the neurologist at UCD. I really wish that I had another option because as it stands I’m beginning to lose hope. Thank you for listening, sincerely yours, Joe Lee. PS: I’m not putting my PCP or nurse advocate down as I understand life doesn’t stop because of me.