How to Talk So Doctors Will Listen

Tips for parents communicating with doctors and other health professionals.

By Karen Melnick

In an ideal world, health professionals would have ample time to sit down and review every child’s health and wellness at a leisurely pace. Unfortunately, in the real world, appointments with physicians and other health professionals have major time constraints. Making sure that you are heard is very important. 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.

  1. Be clear about what your concern is when you book your appointment. 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.
  2. 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
  3. Prioritize your concerns. Because time is usually limited, it is best to decide ahead of schedule what your most important concerns are. State what these are, at the beginning of your appointment, so that you and your health practitioner can organize your time.
  4. 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.
  5. Do some advance research. This will help you to ask relevant questions, and to participate in the discussion.
  6. Be sure to ask questions during appointments. If you aren’t sure you’ll remember details later, write them down.
  7. Follow exactly the advice and instructions that you are given.
  8. 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. 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.