It can be difficult to know how to advocate for yourself in a doctor’s appointment. I’ve been faced with this for years, and I still sometimes find it difficult. However, forming a patient-doctor alliance where you work together is part of a comprehensive wellness plan. In order to participate in this, you must be able to advocate for your own needs and wants. Here’s how to advocate for yourself in a doctor’s appointment.

Why Is It So Hard to Advocate for Yourself in a Doctor’s Appointment?

There are many reasons why it’s hard to advocate for yourself in front of a doctor. Sometimes, it’s related to the doctor, sometimes the patient, and sometimes the situation.

Of course, some doctors are harder to advocate in front of than others. Some doctors have an old-school mindset wherein the doctor is a paternal figure. In other words, they are the parent and the patient is the child. The child then simply does what the parent says without question.

This is the way doctor-patient interactions used to be. Obviously, doctors like that are less receptive to you advocating for your own mental health. Most doctors realize this isn’t the best way anymore, however.

In other cases, some patients just have a really hard time standing up for themselves, period. No matter the doctor or the situation, the patient just won’t speak up. This might be because the person is acutely ill with something like depression or extreme anxiety, or it might just be an individual’s personality.

Finally, sometimes, the situation itself breeds an inability to advocate for yourself in a doctor’s appointment. For example, if you don’t know what you want or you don’t know enough about the reason you’re being treated, it can be impossible to know how to advocate for yourself in a doctor’s appointment.

Why You Need to Know How to Advocate for Yourself in a Doctor’s Appointment

It’s not just about standing up for yourself; it’s actually about an improved prognosis. When you have a better doctor-patient relationship, your likely outcome actually improves. See here:

In the literature, much of the weight is placed on the doctor to make this happen, and that’s fair as they are the professionals, but as two people make up a relationship, I would suggest that patients bear some responsibility, too.

What You Need to Know to Advocate for Yourself in a Doctor’s Appointment

There are fundamental things you need to understand before discussing how to advocate for yourself in a doctor’s appointment. These include:

Tips for How to Advocate for Yourself in a Doctor’s Appointment

Here are some tips for how to advocate for yourself in a doctor’s appointment:

  • Review the factors that may be standing in your way (e.g., knowledge, anxiety, etc.). Make a plan for how to overcome those barriers.
  • Consider what you want out of your doctor’s appointment. Why are you attending? What are your goals? What do you need to communicate? What information do you need from them?
  • Write down everything you need to consider during an appointment ahead of time. (This might include appointment goals, questions, information about side effects, etc.) Take that information with you. (It’s common to forget these things in front of a doctor without a reminder.)
  • Consider bringing someone to your appointment to help advocate for you. Sometimes, it’s easier to stand up for ourselves with backup in the room. Or, sometimes, another person can advocate for us more effectively than we can,
  • Be upfront with your doctor during your appointment. Make sure your doctor knows what you need. There can’t be a successful alliance with you without your active participation.
  • Make your doctor write down their recommendations in your chart — especially if you don’t agree with them. For example, if you feel you need a test and your doctor won’t order it, tell your doctor you want them to write that in your chart. If your doctor is unreasonably denying you a test, they will often relent if they think there will be a written record of it.

What If Your Doctor Doesn’t Listen to You?

Unfortunately, sometimes, no matter how good a job you do advocating for yourself, some doctors just won’t listen, are unreasonable, or seemingly don’t have any interest in a positive doctor-patient relationship. If you’ve tried your best and the relationship isn’t working, get a referral to someone else. Your doctor is not doing you a favor by treating you; your doctor is, in fact, working for you. You have the right to fire them if they aren’t earning their money. (Yes, I know that’s not always possible. But it’s worth doing it in any way you can.)

No matter what, though, keep advocating for yourself and your health. You’re the one who has to live with your health and your treatment — not your doctor.

Image by Flickr user Vic.


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