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How to Advocate for Your Health

by Jean Marino, Women's Health Nurse Practitioner and Co-Founder of The Menopause Retreat. 

You are your own best advocate. Some people feel more comfortable speaking up than others; especially when wearing a paper gown and sitting on an exam table. From a healthcare professional’s point of view, here are some suggestions on how you can talk about your health with a provider.  

Request to Talk to the Provider

You can always request to talk to a healthcare provider before you are asked to change into a gown for an exam.

If you are changing providers, let the potential new provider know why you are changing. For example, “my last OB/GYN was great for my pregnancies, but now I feel I need someone with more of a focus on gynecology.”

Wait to hear their response and if they feel they are the right provider.

Take Notes and Ask Questions

When talking to the healthcare provider about your concern(s), take notes and ask how you can review the provider's notes from your chart. It’s difficult to remember everything.

Get Treatment Details

Ask for details about the treatment plan. Discuss follow up and next steps. For example, if you have a problem/flare up of a symptom or a complication; can the provider make time to see you quickly? If not, whom would you see? How are results communicated?

Sometimes providers dismiss concerns that they don’t know how to adequately address. No provider knows everything about everything. Checking with organizations that specialize in your concern may list providers in your area.

Healthcare providers often have busy schedules, and occasionally may have to accommodate urgent cases that can lead to time constraints. If you notice your healthcare provider appearing rushed and suggesting a follow-up for a more in-depth conversation, it’s important to understand that their intention is often not to neglect you. Rather, it might be best to ensure your concerns are discussed during a lengthier appointment.

Also, providers can have bad days too, where they seem distracted. Voice your concern with that provider. Most providers will appreciate hearing your concern and adjust their response.