Do you ever walk out after a consultation with your doctor with an unfulfilled feeling and a fuzzy head? You’re not alone. The nerves sometimes make you forget to ask important questions about your diagnosis or treatment. And the medical lingo can become so complex that you may lose track. These five tips will help you engage in a good conversation with your doctor.
1. Write down all of your questions beforehand
During the weeks and days before your appointment, all kinds of questions tend to pop up in your head. Be sure to bundle them into a list: write them down on paper or make notes on your smartphone. Choose the method that suits you best.
This will give you a guideline to fall back on during the consultation. Tell your doctor right away that you have compiled a list of questions. This way, you can go through the lot of them together and your doctor will know that you are looking for extra information and clear communication is important to you.
Are you worried that you will forget the answers or tips from your doctor? Write down the most important things during the consultation. This way, you can have another look at everything afterwards and let things sink in.
2. Bring someone along to the doctor's appointment
Are you stressed out or frightened about the consultation? You may find the presence of a friend, family member, partner or colleague helpful. If the pressure really gets the upper hand, ask whether that person will also accompany you on your way up to the appointment. Driving yourself or hopping on a bus or tram all wound up is simply not a wise decision at such a time.
In the waiting room, you’ll feel less alone and time will pass more quickly if you can have a chat or share your concerns. Of course, you only ask someone who is truly supportive of you and with whom you feel 100% at ease.
If you are concerned about forgetting information shared with you during the consultation or if you feel a little insecure, don't be shy to invite your friend to join you in the doctor's office. The two of you together will always hear more than you would do alone! And afterwards you can discuss the consultation together.
3. Do not hesitate to ask for additional information
Don't let your MP’s vocabulary scare you off. It is quite normal that you don’t understand everything your physician seems to take for granted. After all, you are entering a new world and your doctor has probably been in medicine for quite some time.
Have the courage to interrupt your if you don’t fully understand certain things and ask if he or she can reformulate things in plain English. Doctors who are passionate about their profession will be happy to elaborate.
4. Don't dodge the taboo
Are you experiencing any constipation from chemotherapy? Do you suffer from pain during sex due to the hormone treatment? There are issues that you may find difficult to talk about with your doctor. Yet they do affect your wellbeing and your quality of life. Addressing a problem is the start of the path towards a solution. That is why you should also discuss the more difficult themes or taboo subjects with your doctor.
Since you most definitely aren’t the first patient having to deal with annoying side effects or problems, you will certainly not cause a stir. Should your doctor be unable to advise you, he or she will refer you to a colleague or specialist who could be of better assistance to you.
5. Ask for an easily accessible helpline
In between doctor's appointments, new questions, side effects or problems may arise. And because of a busy schedule, it might be difficult to get a hold of your doctor.
Therefore, during the consultation, ask who you can turn to in case of urgent questions. In many cases there is a dedicated nurse or patient coach who can discuss your issue with you on short notice. They will answer your questions in close consultation with the doctor, so that you can be helped at any time.
Inquire about how best to reach this person: by phone, by e-mail, by appointment... This way, you always have a helpline at hand.