We've all been there – sitting in a doctor's waiting room, feeling like a nervous wreck and wondering how to bring up a question we may be embarrassed about.
It can take guts to advocate for yourself in a doctor’s office. Telling people what you need is ultimately the best way to get help, and it feels pretty good once you get it off your chest.
"Healthcare providers want to help us get the care we need. If we don't tell the doctor our concerns, how will they know how to help and what to ask?" said Barbara Moore, who leads a support group through the Lung Health Foundation and lives with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). "It's a partnership and an ongoing dialogue. There is no reason to be nervous about asking questions.”
Here are a few tips to help you have those conversations:
Plan what you want to discuss
Think through what you want to say, including any comments or questions about mood or sleep disorders, heart disease or other chronic conditions. Don’t be afraid to write them down and bring your notes to your appointment – this can help you remember the details and ground you if you’re feeling nervous.
Practice with a friend or family member
You’ll get more comfortable saying the words out loud, and it will help the person understand your situation better. Use a mirror if you don’t have someone around.
Take time to reflect on the conversation
Think about what went well and what you could do differently next time, so you can have even better conversations in the future.
Following these steps can help you feel more confident when describing symptoms and expressing concerns, and enables you to be a better self-advocate, especially if you are living with a chronic condition.
“In my case, I was at first nervous to ask questions because of stigma around COPD and its connection with smoking – even though there are other causes, including workplace exposures, genetics and air pollution,” she said.
However, in this case, as with many other chronic conditions, not asking questions could have serious consequences that may lead to hospitalization. With COPD, a mild flare-up may be a warning sign that more severe symptoms are on the horizon. Reporting the symptoms to a healthcare provider could flag the need for a change in treatment which could help prevent fatal outcomes.
Find more information about this condition at lunghealth.ca/COPD