You’ve been there… You’re sitting in the waiting room, waiting for a medical appointment to begin. Your appointment was supposed to begin 15 minutes ago. You have a list a questions on your mind that you’re not sure you’re going to have time (or the confidence) to ask. You’re not even sure you have time to be sitting waiting for this appointment to begin (in fact, sitting is super uncomfortable and it makes your low back hurt even more). Your child is getting antsy (reasonably so) and you’re hoping the whole waiting room doesn’t have to witness a meltdown (of you or your child). You finally get called back to your appointment. The nurse, who’s pleasant but seems very busy, takes your vitals and asks you how you’re feeling, asks about any recent changes, and reviews your medical history. The physician finally arrives, does a few tests/screenings, asks if you have any needs, supplies any necessary referrals/prescriptions, and the visit is complete. Wham bam thank you ma’am! Only, your back still hurts, you still have at least five pressing questions, you’re still not sure what you’re going to do about peeing your pants when you sneeze, you’re not sleeping, you feel stressed out, and that appointment left you feeling more confused and less empowered.
***PAUSE!*** Okay, so this scenario is all too common. In all fairness, this is less of a medical provider thing and more a healthcare thing. There’s a significant burden on healthcare providers (especially primary care providers) to provide top-shelf care while at the same time do it in all of 10-15 minutes time x however many patients per day (what 25? 30? 35?). Let’s be real – humans aren’t even wired to do that. I can speak on behalf of some physical therapists out there and some of those blessed PTs work crazy hours (and see 10, 12, 15, maybe even up to 20 patients per day), get no breaks, document (without pay), and are tired by the time every Monday night rolls around. Medical providers, all of whom truly do care, in turn, get burned out, operate with poor boundaries, and enter into a viscous cycle of compassion fatigue (and their own health problems). Patients, on the other hand, share a significant burden of not feeling able to voice their concerns and say when they think something is wrong. They are frequently dismissed. They aren’t given credibility. They are rarely listened to. And they are rarely left empowered and wrapped in appropriate resources.
***Okay. Soooo… Now what do we do?*** While we have a ways to go in order to facilitate improved care for medical providers and patients within the current health care model, let’s start with something super basic. Be a team. Give the patient a voice. If you’re in the patient role: use your voice and use it until the right provider listens (you go girl! follow your intuition!). Even if given only 10-15 minutes, there are a few key questions that are reasonable starting places in order to establish a partnership between you as a patient and your provider. Pick one. Start there. And allow the process to unfold.
- What is most important issue you want to address today?
- Why is that issue so important to you?
- Who can join you on your health team?
- How can I (or the provider) help support you?
While this list could go on and on, it’s important to realize that even in a small amount of time, something powerful can still happen. If you’re stuck a typical patient-provider relationship where there’s little time and lots of fumbled hand offs, pick your most important issue and think of what you think is the next best (and easiest) step to take in order to move forward in resolving that issue. Is it a referral to another provider (a PT? pelvic PT? massage therapist? health coach? etc?). Do you want to address your medications? Do you feel like you could be on a show called “Hormones Gone Wild” and you think that just maybe your hormones need checked and need some assistance in re-balancing? (*here’s Kelsea’s side note: I love this blog. It describes a confusing topic oh-so-well and says that something can be done about an issue so rarely spoken about.*)
Pick your thing. Your nagging issue that you think needs addressed first. Consider the next best and easiest step. And watch with curiosity as to what unfolds!
There are many, many caring, thoughtful, and professional providers out there. Don’t let one interaction (or 2 or 3 interactions…) derail you on your healthcare journey. Find your provider who can listen to you, support you, and serve you. Give them a little wiggle room. You’re a team. And health issues take time and lots of tiny baby steps to reach a new level. Most importantly, YOU are in the drivers seat because only you know your body best!