It’s so common to notice what’s not working in our lives.  Whether it’s the news, the weather, or our lives in general – there’s usually something that isn’t exactly as we’d like it (me too!). One of the many reasons for this is the way we’re wired and our survival instinct. In the days of the cave man, we had to constantly be on guard for getting our basic needs met – food, water, shelter and survival.

Nowadays, those needs are often threatened in catastrophic situations or if we’re impoverished.  I don’t want to minimize those circumstances or that they exist.  In fact, I want to acknowledge that those are very difficult situations which millions of people bravely endure and send them my compassion and prayers.

So, why would I talk about survival and noticing what’s not working when this article is about 5 signs you and your provider are in sync? Good question huh!

Here’s the reason:  finding what works isn’t something we’re wired to do.  Why?  Because (in part anyway – there’s a zillion reasons for this) we’re physically and psychologically wired to figure out what isn’t working and fix it.

Having said that, let’s now shift our focus to finding the good. This is something I’ve learned from Jen Louden who continues to inspire me with how she’s helped me really notice all the things (and there’s a million of them too!) that truly are working in my life.  As I notice what’s working in my life, it seems (like the vine outside my window as I write this) to just grow – in infinite and surprising ways.

Here are the 5 key ingredients to a good working relationship between you and your provider.  There needs to be enough time and interest on the part of both of you for all of these elements to occur to be sure you’re in sync:

  1. Be Prepared:   Come to your appointment on time, preparing ahead of time and knowledgeable about what’s bothering you.  Use Patient Power to help you prepare including the Appointment Preparation Form and the 7 day Dosage Log if you’re taking medication or supplements.  That way you’ll know exactly what you want to discuss, be on top of your symptoms and won’t forget anything.
  2. Stop Talking:  Give your provider time to digest the information you give them.  Stop talking so they can concentrate on the information you’ve given them. Give them a chance to take some notes, do an exam, look something up or whatever else they need to do after you’ve shared your input.
  3. Honor the Balance Between You:  When I was little I used spend a lot of time at the playground across the street from my house on this seesaw. I loved it when my friend and I could both have our feet off the ground and be in balance.  That’s key here – you give information, they take it in and advise you. It’s a dynamic rather than a static process of give and take, reflecting back what you’re each hearing.
  4. Summarize:  Use Patient Power to be sure you’ve gotten the story straight.  That’s your job, not theirs.  Repeat what you’ve understood from them in terms of what’s going on as well as their further instructions.  This is a pivotal point and often where things get lost.  I developed an Appointment Summary Sheet as part of Patient Power to help you make sure you correctly understood their recommendations.
  5. Assess:  This is also up to you.  Figure out if what they’re suggesting is a match for what’s most important to you. You may be able to do this on the spot or you may need to take some time with what’s been suggested to research, talk to others and/or ask your part if what they’ve recommended is something you’re willing to do.  It’s really important not to ask them this obvious question:  “If it were your husband, what would you do?”  Why?  Because you’re presumably not their spouse and it’s up to you to make the choices that are right for you – not your provider.

Other helpful ingredients are caring staff members, a mutual sense of humor about life in general (and my situation in particular), wise insights from the staff or provider’s about why things are the way they are from me,  and having all my pertinent information available.  These things don’t necessarily make or break the relationship and they really increase my comfort level with getting my healthcare needs met.  After all, if I didn’t need help, I wouldn’t be there in the first place.

If any one of the key ingredients is missing, there’s a good chance your relationship isn’t really working. For me personally, when one of those ingredients in missing – my relationship with my provider isn’t optimal. That doesn’t mean it can never work; it simply means something needs tweaking.   There are many ways to improve your relationship with your provider – sometimes it just takes time.  And other times, there’s something that they’ve said or done that may be a deal breaker for you.  We’ll talk about deal breakers in another post.

Here’s the question for you:  How do you know that your relationship with your provider is working? I’d love to hear examples from your life of a working relationship and also am very interested if your criteria are different from mine.  People vary and other ideas of working relationships are always welcome here.

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