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From the column Health and Wellnesshealth-wellness-01-15-1

There are few earthly relationships more important than the one with our doctors. In the past, most of us would go to appointments, then try to do what we were instructed without asking questions. Today, doctors are in a partnership with us. That means we, too, must actively communicate with physicians to stay healthy.

Be Prepared!

Being prepared for an appointment is a good place to begin. If visiting a new physician, it’s important to create a list of all medications being taken, including over-the-counter drugs. Some doctors want new patients to bring their medication bottles to the first appointment. This helps the physician determine if we are taking the appropriate medications in the proper dosages at the correct times. If it’s a trip to our regular physician, we should take along medical updates since we were last seen. This would include information like a new specialist or a flu shot received at the corner drug store.

If we’re older and have trouble hearing or seeing, we should not forget to take reading glasses and make sure any hearing devices are working properly. In some cases, it’s helpful to take someone else (such as a parish nurse) to provide an extra pair of eyes and ears.

Be Honest!

A visit with our doctor is not the time to worry about being a whiner! Physicians determine care based on what we tell them. We must let them decide if what we are experiencing is significant or not. The more detail we provide about symptoms, the better the diagnosis will be.

At the same time, it’s important that we not try to self-diagnose our problem based on something we have read or been told by someone else. Although our symptoms may be similar to some illness we read about on the Internet, a lot more is required to make a proper diagnosis. Our doctors have been through much schooling and generally stay aware of the latest information on healthcare and diseases. Let them do their jobs. Our job is to make sure they have accurate information.

Ask Questions!

Have you ever left your doctor’s office and then thought, “I wish I had asked…” It’s also possible to leave the office not really sure of what we were instructed to do. One way to help avoid this is to write any questions we have before our appointment and take them with us.

A good strategy to make sure we understood what happened at the appointment is called “Ask Me 3.” Whenever we talk with our doctor, we should include these three questions:

    1.   What is my main problem?
    2.   What do I need to do?
    3.   Why is it important for me to do this?

It is vital that we are clear about the answers we receive to these questions. Asking questions is a good way to communicate. There is no need to be nervous or afraid. Our doctors want us to clearly understand what is wrong, what we can do to make it better, and the reasoning behind any medications or therapy. Don’t be afraid to ask your physician to write out details that will help you to understand what you need to do, especially those related to the taking of drugs.

A friend of mine tells a story about his mother who was prescribed nitroglycerin tablets for chest pain caused by coronary artery disease. After taking the pills for a week or so, she complained to her doctor that they were not working. It was only then that she realized she should have been allowing the tablets to dissolve in her mouth rather than swallowing them whole, as she had been doing.

In this age of rapidly changing technology and busy medical providers, it is essential that we be an active member of our health care team. No one will ever take more interest in your health than you, so do whatever you can to make the lines of communication with your doctors as uncluttered as they can be with accurate, honest information.

Rev. Charlotte Evans is a registered nurse and elder in Greensboro, North Carolina. She serves as director for Nazarene Parish Nursing (NPN).

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