Communicating with Medical Practitioners

Dealing with doctors and other medical professionals can be a challenge. In raising my four children I became adept at getting the best value out of my discussions with medical practitioners. Of course, when my son had chronic fatigue syndrome my interactions with doctors increased exponentially, this allowed me to fine tune my communications skills. Here are some tips which helped me get the most out of these interactions.

  • Medical professionals have put a lot of time and effort into their education into the medical paradigm. So, my tip here is, respect their expertise. This does not mean you have to agree with them all the time. Their training is often one which focuses on treating a symptom rather than the cause. They are very good at this, and at times reducing symptoms can diminish the discomfort while you are building a healthy foundation through other methods. It is good to question them, and doing so respectfully means you will both gain from the discussion.
  • Come to your new medical professional with your medical history, including test results if you have them. In my son’s case, I always started with when and how his condition began, and how and when each symptom developed. Not all doctors were interested, some just wanted to focus on the current symptom. But in the end, it turned out the origin of his illness was an important factor in his recovery.
  • Learn some medical vocabulary. It always amazed me how much more forthcoming medical professionals are when you use medical vocabulary when speaking with them. Words like diagnosis (what they think is wrong), prognosis (the likely course of a medical condition) and febrile (having or showing symptoms of a fever) are useful. If they use a term you do not understand, ask what if means, and then use it in future conversations if relevant – I found this made a huge difference.
  • Ask questions. The doctor is providing a service and being paid for it, if there is something you want to know, don’t be shy in asking. If they don’t know, they will tell you. Gone are the days when doctors tell, and patients just listen. It should be a two-way conversation. There is nothing wrong with having a pre-prepared list of questions, but be aware your appointment may be time limited, so I recommend a balanced approach. If you are being prescribed a medication, questions around effectiveness, side-effects (long and short term) and alternatives are worthwhile.
  • If you are making life style changes, you can discuss these with your doctor. In particular, managing the introduction of exercise. Working with your doctor (or medical professional) is very important for a number of conditions including those associated by chronic fatigue syndrome. Also, if you are on medications your lifestyle changes may impact the dosage, so working with your practitioner is advised.
  • If you are unhappy with your doctor, and it’s possible to get a new one, then do so.  Finding someone you can communicate well with is very important. If you live in regional or remote areas or if you require a doctor who bulk bills, this can be more difficult but now telehealth is becoming more popular, you may find you have more choices.

These tips have helped me over the years. Understanding the standard medical approach, and making the best use of how it functions enabled me to glean value from even the most restrictive of circumstances.



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Photo by Jeff Osborn from FreeImages

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