How to empower yourself as a patient

How to empower yourself as a patient

15 Apr How to empower yourself as a patient

Often when people go and visit the doctor, they feel as though they ‘have to’ listen to what the doctor says, do what the doctors says, and then the doctor has to make choices for them and that it is the doctors responsibility for what happens with their health care.

But, this is not empowering for us. This is being disempowered.

This is such an ingrained traditional and ‘accepted’ way of interacting that we well might ask, what is being empowered? How might that look? Certainly, our doctors are highly educated, and that is to be respected and appreciated, but that doesn’t mean that we need to give our power away to them when it comes to our health care choices. It is important that we always understand what is happening, and that we are fully engaged in our health care decision making, making sure that what we are doing is right for us.

Being empowered is knowing who we are as people and taking responsibility for ourselves in our choices and our healthcare, and our lives, and this is something that we can all do!

The key thing to empowering yourself is to see everyone as a person, both you and in this case, your doctor equally so. No-one is better or more powerful, we are all equal.

Although your doctor is a highly skilled professional, your doctor is a person just like you, with lives, personal issues, issues with the traffic, relationships challenges, and possibly financial challenges, and challenges with their family and children. They have likes and dislikes and often doctors don’t take care of themselves and are stressed out working really hard to look after people at the expense of looking after themselves. They are under a lot of pressure with very little to no support, and whilst they are doing the best they can for people, they are not perfect, and nor is it possible for them to be perfect as nobody is!

Each person has something different that we bring to life. In life, we all get trained in particular skills that offer support and expertise to others who have not had the time to train in these details. We all benefit from their knowledge and their expertise, but we are never not equal to them because they know something or can do something that we can’t do. It’s the same with medicine. Yes, doctors are super smart, and have studied really hard, and know a lot of things, but they are not more powerful than you nor are they better than you. They are equal to you.

The key thing to remember when seeing your doctor is that you are seeing a person who is your equal, and you are simply paying a highly trained person for an opinion for them to give you the best possible advice that they know according to their training and their experience.

This means that we can feel more open and relaxed.

When you see a doctor, it’s important to remember that  you are the one who is charge of your health care, and you are the one who is making the choices for yourself. It is your right to choose what feels right for you.

When you are seeing a doctor, it’s like seeing another professional like an accountant or perhaps financial adviser: you are paying an expert for their opinion and expertise in an area to help you in your decision making but the final decisions are yours. They know a lot, it is their job and training to be the expert in that area which brings a lot of support to you. You seek advice from those who are experts in the field to inform you, but ultimately the choices as to what to do for you and your body come down to you.

Maxine’s tips on being empowered as a patient: 

  1. If you have questions, write them down and take a list, and don’t be shy or embarrassed about it!

It’s important that you understand what you need to understand. When you are in an appointment sometimes it can be a bit like being in the proverbial headlights when you get into the doctor’s room and very easy to forget things that you only remember when you leave. Having your questions written down makes it easier. Make sure you ask about the things you want to know about or concern you.

  1. Feel free to take the time to read about and understand your condition if you want to, and ask your doctor if you have any more questions.

There are a lot of things on the internet that are not true, people can deliberately make things up, accidentally say things that are not true and this information is all freely available on the internet. Many people have come to see me traumatised by what they have read on chat sites… it can be difficult to discern fact from fiction and your doctor with their training and expertise is a great source of facts.

  1. Find a doctor you have a good relationship with.

It’s important that you feel free to communicate with and feel you connect with your doctor. The quality of your relationship is key here. Your doctor is a person with a real personality and life. ‘Doctors’ are not impersonal interchangeable ‘white coats’:  we are not all the same sort of people!! Despite the fact that we are all highly skilled, we are people first before we are ‘doctors’. We love seeing people and take great joy in the great relationships we have with our patients.

Remember above all, you do not need to be intimidated by seeing a doctor. Your doctor is a person just like you. They are not perfect and they do not know everything. Expecting somebody to know everything and have ‘all’ of the answers is disempowering to them and we all need to be equally empowered. We all only know what we know.

Enjoy your trips to the doctor, they can be fun when you are empowered!

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