Self Advocacy- A Pep Talk For Patients When You’re Getting Ticked Off

This post is a foot-note to the one that I wrote a few days ago called Getting Ticked Off? Self Advocacy- A Couple Of HintsI just felt like I needed to add more to that. I had yest another frustrating encounter with Dr. Unhelpful MD.  I had to remind myself of a conversation that I had with a relative you had more than his fair share of experience.

A few years ago, my Uncle Mark sat me down and had a talk with me about being an advocate for my son. At the time, he was an infant. My son has Down Syndrome.  We were experiencing a lot of problems with, what seemed like, the majority of the medical professionals that we encountered.

My Uncle Mark said to me “When a person goes to college to be a doctor, it doesn’t matter if they graduate at the top or bottom of the class. They’ll still be called “Doctor”.  Keep that in mind when you are met with ego. Don’t let anyone intimidate you. You are the greatest advocate for your son.”

Remember that these people are people. They aren’t Gods and they aren’t better than you. Do not let them frighten you, intimidate you or walk all over you.  They are people. Just people. You will have to learn to “handle” them if and when it comes down to it.

My Uncle Mark dealt with a lot of medical professionals over the years. He lost two daughters to Cystic Fibrosis. He spent their lifetimes dealing with pretty much anything that you could possibly imagine, including different types of personalities.

What I learned being an advocate for my son has prepared me to advocate for myself. Just like no one has my son’s best interest in mind more than I do, no one will have your best interest in my greater than you will.

In the short time that I have been diagnosed with Lyme Disease, I have already had to wrestle the doctor that I was dealing with. I have had to stand my ground with this man on more than one occasion.

From his refusal to make a follow up appointment with me to go over my diagnosis so I could ask question and seek guidance, to his refusal to properly prescribe my antibiotics. I stood my ground. When I had to call them out, I countered everything they tried to throw back at me. In the end, I was right and I got it done.

Stand your ground. Be persistent.

With that said, you do need to do your homework. Do your research. Learn everything that you possibly can. Be mindful of what you read on the internet. There is a lot of bad information out there. Seek out reading material that is less than two years old.  Look for book recommendations. Sign up for online discussion forums. Yahoo!  has a lot of groups that you can join.

You are responsible for you. With the proper tools, you can and will successfully advocate for yourself.  You may not get your way all of the time. You may still get ignored but it will be harder for them to dismiss you if you are informed and persistent.

Do not feel like you have to just accept everything that they tell you. If you have questions, ask your questions.  I recommend keeping a binder with all of your paperwork. I also recommend keeping a journal with the dates, times and names of everyone that you come into contact with. I also recommend writing down what you talked about and what was said. Do it as soon as you can while it is still fresh

Binder and diary
Binder and diary

Always  be reasonable. Stay calm. Cry it out or sleep on it before you handle it if you can. This will help you avoid doing or saying things, or even making decisions out of anger.

Just because you don’t like the answers, doesn’t mean that your health care professional is wrong. If you truly think that you are not being treated properly, you are free to find another provider.

Do not be afraid to get other people involved.  Hospitals/clinics etc have professionals who oversee physicians and handle complaints. You don’t have to accept bad behavior. You are allowed to ask questions and to question your own care if you feel you have a problem.

Do not be intimidated. These people are supposed to be helping you, not demeaning you and make you feel helpless. You are not helpless.  Doctor’s are not Gods. They are people. If you’re being overcome by ego, remind yourself of what my Uncle Mark said.

First or last, they’re still called “doctor”.

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