You are an Important Member of Your Healthcare Team!
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole,
there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. African-American spiritual
What is the first thing that you think of when you think of health and wellness? For many of us, what comes to mind is physical health and the medical care we receive to maintain or attain our physical health. When we face sickness we must admit that we need healing. We must be willing to ask for the help of others and recognize the healing that God wants to bring into our lives may come in the form of healthcare providers—doctors, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, massage therapists, podiatrists, psychologists, physical therapists, technicians, mental health counselors, complementary and alternative health practitioners…and more. There are many different healthcare professionals that you may consult to provide guidance and care for physical health-related problems.
Who is the most important person in the relationship with your healthcare professional? It is you. When I first started my nursing education, an emphasis on making patients a part of their healthcare decision-making was just beginning. Prior to this, patients would visit their doctor and the doctor would tell them what they should do. Think—Marcus Welby, M.D. Patients were happy to take the doctor’s advice; after all, doctors were the experts and they knew what was best. These days most people feel comfortable being a part of their health care planning.
In order to be a member of your own healthcare team, effective communication with providers is essential. According to a 2018 article in WebMD, a study found that 75% of doctors believed that they communicated satisfactorily with those in their care. Only 21% of the people treated by those doctors said that their talks went well. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that patients were allowed to finish their “opening statement of concerns” in only 23 percent of doctors’ visits. The most important part about visiting your healthcare provider is effectively communicating with each other!
Here are some tips for communicating with your healthcare provider:
Think in advance about the questions you want to be answered. Write them down and highlight the main three or four you want to discuss.
Tell the story about the symptoms you are having. For example, if you are having pain, share—
When did it start?
What were you doing when your first felt it?
How does it feel? Sharp? Dull? Aching?
How often do you feel the pain?
Is there anything that makes it feel better?
Is there anything that makes it feel worse?
Have you tried any medication or other treatment for it?
What would you like the outcome of this visit to be?
Let your provider know how much or how little you want to participate in the decision-making process and whether you want very detailed information about all treatment options or just general information.
Inform your provider of any cultural beliefs that may affect your treatment choices or preferences.
If you don’t feel like you are being heard, speak up.
Bring along a friend or family member (preferably, only one) to help listen and ask questions that you may not think of.
Write down or ask the provider to write down essential information related to your condition or treatment.
Be willing to come back for another appointment to fully address your health concerns.
“We can live well by tending and nurturing our bodies as a gift from God. The ability to recognize that our behaviors have a significant impact on our wellness and adopting healthy habits contribute to our physical wellness.” ELCA Wholeness Wheel
Question of the Month: What qualities do you consider most important in medical care? In a healthcare provider?
Church Health. Model for Healthy Living: Introduction with Reflections (2014). Church Health: Memphis, TN.
Donovan, J. (2020, January 27). How to talk to your doctors when they don’t listen. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/be-heard-by-dr#1
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The Wholeness Wheel.
Renter, E. & Schroeder, M.O. (2018, March 2). How to talk so your doctor will listen. https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/how-to-talk-so-your-doctor-will-listen
UCSF Health. Communicating with your doctor. Retrieved February 25, 2020 from: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/communicating-with-your-doctor