Sometimes, as patients it’s easy for us to sit back and let someone else take care of us. But being a patient isn’t that simple. You have to be on your toes now more than ever, and there are things that you should know in order to ensure that you receive the best care possible.
You have the right to demand all copies of your medical records for your own personal keeping. Don’t rely on one doctor to openly share it with another. They require your approval, and then the reliance on someone in an office to actually send them. If you have your own copy, you can simply make a copy yourself and take with you. But it also helps to read through the jargin yourself, to remember the terms, the condition, and also not feel as if you are alone in the dark when the specialists are communicating in the room as if you’re not there. I make sure that I know the terminology so well that I can repeat it back to them if necessary. I am able to finish their sentences, correct them on the terminology. If anything, it makes them stay on their toes around me, making sure that they know as much about my diagnosis as I do. Also, feel free to talk through all of your results with the doctor, with the pages there in front of you. Know that no one knows your body better than you.
See, I have a high threshold for pain, which I inherited from my mom. I don’t bruise easily, and when I do I usually have no idea how I’ve gotten it. So when I do have pain, I know that I have to keep it under control and managed or it will become unbearable. After my double mastectomy (otherwise known as a bilateral right modified radical left prophylactic mastectomy in the medical field), I describe my exact pain to my breast surgeon (my pectoral muscles feel as if I’ve done a massive bench press workout), and I remind her of my threshold (basically that I need the good stuff). Being the professional that she is, she tells me that when I check out to tell her assistant that I need Percocet and Valium. Fast forward to two hours later when I’m checking out an entire day earlier than expected (because if there’s one place you can’t get any rest it’s in a hospital), I tell this to the young doctor to be, who’s dismissive and tries to tell me that codeine will be enough. I hold my ground. I know my body, not her, and tell again exactly what I’d need per Dr. Estabrook and that if she isn’t going to provide it that I will just walk over to her office upon my departure. Needless to say, she pulled out her pen and started writing. Ok, so a little threatening on behalf of your own health goes a long way too.
It’s very easy to simply allow the doctors to ‘do their jobs.’ But think about it…. You are one of dozens of patients that a doctor must keep track of. And, even though it’s hard to believe, a doctor actually has a personal life. Who knows what’s happening with his kid, or her spouse or even if the doctor is dealing with medical condition of her own. Not to mention all of the medical terminology that one has to keep straight. I mean I know it’s a doctor’s job, but that’s a lot to keep in one brain. When it comes to your own health, or that of a loved one you’re an advocate for, there is a no holds bar on the amount of information you are privileged to know. And the last thing you should be worried about is making sure you don’t hurt the feelings of or step on the toes of your doctor. You are not there to make her/him better. They are there to make you better. Be sure that they do.