Here they are in a nutshell:
- Getting uptight and “forgetting my lines” running out of time to say what was really bothering me.
- Being too sick to talk about what was really wrong and instead minimizing my symptoms, making small talk or “being a good patient”.
We all get healthcare for one reason: to get help with something. Whether it’s making sure we’re on top of some condition we’re monitoring like heart disease or diabetes or managing active symptoms like pain, depression, migraines, or menopause – we’re there to get help.
We want help – or presumably we wouldn’t ask for it.
Another universal truth is that we were put here on earth to give and receive help. Helping each other makes us feel good. Getting help feels reassuring and hopeful. Since we all want to give and receive help, I designed this worksheet to minimize everyone’s frustrations – both those who don’t feel well and those who are helping us feel better.
Back to my frustration and how this work sheet was born.
Very simply, I created this worksheet because I was sick of not getting my needs met and willing to own my part of it because I wasn’t clearly asking for what I wanted. Why? Because – like many people – I expected my provider to figure it out based on what I told them and I didn’t put any thought into how to say that clearly.
Here’s my AHA Moment: When I say things clearer, there is a better chance that others may hear what I’m saying. They may not agree with me or see it my way – and I may find I’m asking the wrong person for something that they can’t help me with – but they’ll definitely hear the question better if I speak up and enunciate clearly.
So, what the heck does that mean? It means this: “I have back pain in my left hip that hurts more when I sit cross legged for over an hour at work. I can fix it by walking every morning and stretching afterwards. It hurts when I twist to the right and feels better when I straighten my spine. I want to know what to do to make this stop so I can sit longer.”
Contrast that with this: ” Uh, I have back pain right here (pointing to my right hip) or maybe it’s over here (pointing to the center of the spine), and sometimes it doesn’t bug me at all but most of the time, like when I’m sitting it’s pretty intense and I don’t’ know why but maybe it’s got something to do with the long trip I took the other day but then I went to yoga and it felt better for a while but Man it killed me the other day and today it’s better but I don’t know why or anything. I guess it’s not so bad – how are you doing?? “
Notice how vague the second one is: Yes, it has some specifics like sitting hurts sometimes and then hurts later, and the person in pain is also minimizing it with no clear request in the end.
In the first request though, the person in pain is actively noticing where it is, what makes it worse, how long it lasts and what they can do to fix it. See the difference?
Take a moment and imagine listening to both stories. Which one do you understand more clearly? Which one helps you figure out what this provider can do to help?
See how it helps to change roles between being the one in pain and the one who’s helping. THAT’S what we need to do more of. We need to change hats and see how it feels to be the provider. (Likewise, I want the provider to develop greater empathy for the ones that they help but I’m saving that for another article.)
True, a doctor can ask you these questions. Or they may have you diagram your pain. But chances are they won’t look at that diagram too long or they may forget to ask the most important questions that you have – until perhaps they are well into the appointment if at all.
No one is right or wrong here. I want to make that very clear. It’s just a question of how best to get your needs met. And that’s up to you – not your provider.
It’s up to you to say clearly and concisely what’s going on with you, what meds you’re taking, and what you want help with so you know what to do once your appointment is over.
Download this Appointment Preparation Worksheet - it’s free. Do it right now before you get busy. Keep a couple copies in your car and fill it out while you’re in the waiting room.
Better yet, fill it out before you leave the house and make two copies. Give one to your provider. Wait quietly. Give them a chance to read it. Let them keep it and make it part of the chart.
Make sure your questions are answered before you leave. It will be easier to do when you have your questions in front of you at the time. And let me know how it works for you.
I designed it with all of us in mind – the one who needs help, the one whose helping and all the people in between – so we can all participate in getting and giving the healthcare that we deserve.