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
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.?