Have you ever gone to a timeshare presentation and they tell you it’s only going to take an hour of your time, but that hour turns into four? And although you came with the intention of only getting the “free” gift, you walk away purchasing something you can’t afford. Or how about going to go “test drive” a car and end up in a lease for a car you weren’t quite ready to invest in?
Sometimes going to the doctor can be that way. You walk into the doctor’s office for allergy medication, only to end up with five vaccinations for something you didn’t even know existed (and you leave without the meds you originally came in for).
I have lost count of how many times that has happened to me.
I would leave an appointment even more confused and wondering how it was possible that I came in for abdominal pain, refused the flu shot, got a 20-minute lecture on flu shot benefits, and walked out with the flu shot and abdominal pain. Now, I know I’m not the only person who has gone to the doctor for one reason, only to have the doctor’s own objectives pushed on you. The doctor is (or can be) a bully if you allow them to be.
Some of you may say it’s not bullying, but rather “strong suggestions.” But my question for you is, what else do you call it when a doctor uses their superior intellect (medical degree) to make you feel as if you don’t know your own body? Over the years, this has happened to me so many times that I just became numb to it. After feeling unheard, misunderstood, and confused by so many providers, I just accepted the status quo. In doing so, I gave them my self-care resignation.
With that said, here are a few tips to help you take control of your next appointment and to help prevent doctor-on-patient bullying:
Get to Know Your Body
Keep in mind that doctors are scientists. They use deductive reasoning based on the things you tell them to make a diagnosis. For them to give you proper treatment and diagnosis, you must be able to describe your symptoms. I know sometimes that can be hard to do, especially when some of the sensations that you are feeling are new or you’re feeling many different things at once. However, being able to communicate your symptoms clearly is a must. Take the time to ask yourself basic questions like:
Where am I experiencing pain?
Is the pain dull, achy, etc?
Is this a new or old symptom?
When did the symptom start?
Make sure to ask yourself as many questions about your body as possible, before making an appointment, because when the appointment-setter picks up the phone, they will schedule your appointment based on your symptoms and sense of urgency. Also, when you see the doctor since their time is limited, they come in the room specifically to examine you for whatever you told the appointment-setter. If you have forgotten to mention something before the appointment, don’t be too surprised when they begin to rush through your “newfound” symptom.
Be On Time
The odds of you being seen during your set appointment time is highly unlikely; but, you want the blame to be on them and not you. It’s acceptable (to the doctor and their staff) to run late, it will not affect the length of your appointment. However, if you are late, they must then double-book you and see you in-between other patients, and if they do that, then the doctor will rush your appointment. The alternative is, you would have to reschedule your appointment for weeks or even months out. So, be on time that way you won’t feel as rushed.
Keep in mind, that although you are seeing a doctor for health concerns, your doctor’s office is still a business. They are on a time limit to see each patient, so don’t waste your time by not being specific with your concerns. The night before your appointment, write down any pressing questions, the medications you take, and all symptoms, because when you get to your appointment, and are rushed by the doctor trying to get to their next patient, I guarantee you will forget to mention something (and then recall it after you get into the parking lot). Treat each appointment like a business meeting (because for them it is)—stay on topic, go over every point, and take notes.
Most Importantly: Advocate for Yourself (Stand Your Ground)
The most important thing a patient can do for themselves is advocate for themselves—which is why it is important to come prepared. By being prepared, YOU can guide the appointment, be direct, and feel confident. Ask every question you need to ask, and remember to write down or record (with the doctor’s permission) the answers you receive. Keep in mind that doctors are often asked irrelevant questions by patients, so instead of actively listening to your question they already have an “out of office” response prepared for you. If you notice this happening, ask the question again to make sure they understand and are catering to your needs, not just giving you a generic answer.
Rome wasn’t built in a day—so it is unlikely you’ll get all the answers you need in one appointment. The key is to remain persistent until you receive the answers you need. Going to doctor after doctor, looking for answers is very frustrating, but if your God-given intuition is telling you something is wrong, then don’t give up on finding those answers.
They Work for Us and Sometimes You Have to Fire Them
We go to doctors seeking their superior intellect, but we must keep in mind that we technically employ them. Without us (the patients) they would have no practice. Now, I’m not saying that we own them or anything, but if you feel that your doctor isn’t fitting your need, then don’t be afraid to ask for another opinion. Most patients (including me) opt not to because they don’t want to have to start the process over with someone new or feel that it won’t change anything. But if after every appointment you feel as if the doctor isn’t acting in your best interest, then you must walk away.