emotional health

Speak Up!

¿Has your health care professional ever said something you didn’t understand? Or, given you advice that didn’t fit your life? When that happens are you nervous about speaking up?

If you answered «YES», you are not alone.

Many of us feel nervous asking our health care professionals questions. Or worse yet, disagreeing with them. It can be hard to say, “I’m not sure I understand” or “I don’t think that will work for me.” You probably don’t want to be seen as a “difficult” patient. Or take up too much of your health care professionals valuable time. The easiest way to react in that situation is to smile politely and keep quiet. But as you know, the easiest way is not always the best way.

It may surprise you to learn that most health care professionals wish their patients would speak up more often.

They need to know if you don’t understand something they have said. You can’t follow advice you don’t understand. For example, your doctor may have advised you to take a new pill to help lower your blood pressure. You need to know if you are add that to the pills you already take or replace one of the pills you are taking now with the new one.

Also, they want to know if their advice seems hard or unrealistic. Good advice isn’t good if it doesn’t fit your life. “Walk 30 minutes a day”, is not good advice if there isn’t a safe place to walk near your home. If you don’t speak up your health care will suffer. And your health may suffer as well.

You and your health care professional both want for you to have the best health care possible.

Health care professionals want their patients to be open and honest. They know that good communication is a basic part of high quality care. But good communication is a two-way street. Information needs to be both said and understood by the listener. Good communication won’t happen if you don’t speak up.

There are several things you can do during your visit to help ensure good communication. First, if you know that you have questions or problems that you want to clear up during the visit, write them down so you remember to bring them up. Keep a paper and pen handy so you can write down new things or ask your health care professional to write them for you. At the end of the visit, tell your health care professional that you want to repeat back what you plan to do at home to be sure that you are both clear. If you get home and something does not make sense, remember that it is never too late to clear things up. Call your health care professional. Get your questions answered.

If you want good care, speak up. It’s your health that’s at stake.

It is a bad idea to walk out of the office being confused about whether you are advised to take this pill every morning or only when you feel sick. Or whether you were advised to check your blood glucose every morning or after every meal. If you leave the office not fully understanding the advice you have been given, you and the health care professional both lose.

It is also a bad idea to agree with advice If it does not fit with your life or is something you cannot afford or are not likely to do, It is not disrespectful to let your health care professional know. After all it is your life and your health. Often your health care professional can offer another idea or treatment that will work. Remember, you are the final decision-maker in what you will do, not your health care professional. If you have spoken up and your health care professional became annoyed, then it might be time to think about getting another health care professional.

The key thing to keep in mind is to remember both you and your health care professional want the same thing: high-quality health care and good health for you. And part of your job is to speak up when you need to.

Bob Anderson
EdD 2004
back to emotional health index