Communicating With Your Doctor

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Why do I need to know how to communicate with my doctor?

Have you ever walked out of your doctor's office and realized you forgot to ask the question about a problem that made you book the appointment in the first place? If you answered yes, please read on.

Clear effective communication is the key to a satisfying visit with your doctor. Your health is your responsibility. As a woman you will likely make use of the medical system more often than men for one reason or another. You can have a rewarding doctor's visit if you plan for it.

What can I do to improve my visit with my doctor?

Before your next doctor's visit, prepare. Do not assume your doctor knows what is going on inside your mind or body.

  • Gather as many facts about why you are going and write them down. Write down when the symptoms first began, what set them off, what you were doing when they first began, and any remedies you may have tried to bring some relief.
  • Ask yourself, "Why am I going to see my doctor?" What do you want to learn or know at the end of the visit? List at least three main questions you want to discuss with your doctor and start with them. Ask the most important questions first - don't leave them to the last when there is little time left to discuss them.
  • If possible bring a partner or significant person with you to your appointments. They can help you remember what was discussed and also help you focus on why you are at the doctor's office. Decide which of you will be the main speaker.
  • Ask for extra time with your doctor. When you book your appointment, tell the receptionist that you would like to talk with your doctor and ask for extra time to be booked.

What can I do during my doctor's appointment?

Ask for further explanation or clarification. To help you remember accurately, write down the information that you receive from your doctor. If your doctor uses complicated medical terms, ask her to write them down and explain them in plain language.

If you feel all your questions were not answered, say so. You may need to ask the doctor to call you later or book another appointment to ensure that your questions are adequately answered.

What do I do after my doctor's appointment?

Go over what was discussed during your doctor's visit. If you do not agree with the course of action your doctor wants you to take, do not hesitate to seek a second opinion from another doctor. You are not insulting your doctor by seeking another opinion.

Talk to nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists and other professionals. They may have more time to work with you to understand what was discussed with your doctor.

You know your body better than anyone else. Listen to what your body is telling you. Become more knowledgeable about your own and your family's medical history.

Where can I get more information?


Revised March 2009.