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How to Talk So Doctors Will Listen

By Karen Melnick

When difficulties do arise between parent and health practitioner, they tend to be based on communication issues. Talking to health professionals can be intimidating, even for parents with healthcare backgrounds. You may feel unsure of your information, you may worry that you will be judged, and you may be expecting to have to fight for what you think needs to happen. Below, are suggestions that will help you to get the most out of your appointments, and to develop mutually respectful relationships with your child’s health and wellness team.

* When you book an appointment, be clear about what your concern is. If you have more than one issue that you would like addressed, be sure to specify this, to ensure that the appropriate time is scheduled.

* Be prepared. Arrive at the appointment with all of the information that you think will be required. Bring a list of current medications, as well as vitamins and natural remedies, that your child is taking. If you are seeing a specialist, make sure you have all of the related details with you. Write information down if you think you’ll forget.

* Prioritize your concerns. State what these are, at the beginning of your appointment, so that you and your health practitioner can organize your time. Start with the toughest issues, and you’ll feel better once they have been given a voice.

* Be brief, very specific, and factual in your description of the problem. Busy health professionals must quickly arrive at conclusions, and you want these conclusions to be based on the facts that are most important. Come to the appointment with details, and offer them without being asked.

* Do some advance research. This will help you to ask relevant questions, and to participate in the discussion. The Internet is a great source of information. The library and related associations can also be very helpful. Just remember that not all information from the Internet, or other sources, is credible. You will need to discuss your findings with your health professionals.

* Be sure to ask questions during appointments. If you aren’t sure you’ll remember details later, write them down. Ask for written materials, or if any other sources can be recommended. It is your job to be as informed as possible about your child’s health and wellness issues. You will feel more confident, and will be a more effective advocate for your child.

* Take note of what makes the situation better, what makes it worse, and what has no effect. If the situation doesn’t improve in the way that you and your health practitioner expected, you should call, or make another appointment, to review this. Follow exactly the advice and instructions that you are given.

* If you feel that your concerns have not been adequately addressed, be sure to state this clearly. A review of details may be helpful in clarifying your concerns. If you disagree with your practitioner’s choice of treatment, state this clearly. Then, be sure to listen to the response. Should you continue to be dissatisfied, it is reasonable to seek another opinion. Most health professionals will welcome this, and can be instrumental in facilitating a referral.

Remember, you can be an effective advocate for your child. This does not require you to be aggressive or confrontational. When you have your facts, offer clear details, participate in the treatment decisions and follow instructions, you are on the road to establishing a mutually respectful relationship with your child’s various health and wellness professionals. The end result is definitely worth the effort.

Pat Linkhorn is the .....

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