How to avoid an awkward doctor’s appointment

by | Jun 8, 2023 | Health and Wellness

Many of us have been there – sitting in a doctor’s waiting room wondering how to bring up a question we may be embarrassed about.

It can take guts to advocate for yourself in a doctor’s office, but telling people what you need is ultimately the best way to get help, and it feels pretty good once you get it off your chest.

“If we don’t tell the doctor our concerns, how will they know how to help and what to ask? Health-care providers want to help us get the care we need. There is no reason to be nervous about asking questions,” says Barbara Moore, who lives with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and leads a support group with the Lung Foundation.

Here are a few tips to help you have those conversations:

  1. Plan what you want to discuss
    Think through what you want to say, including any comments or questions about mood or sleep disorders, heart disease or other chronic conditions. There’s no shame in writing them down and bring your notes to your appointment – this can help you remember the details.
  2. Practice with a friend or family member
    Try it out on a friend, family member or your even your mirror. You’ll get more comfortable saying the words out loud, and it will help the person understand your situation better.
  3. Take time to reflect on the conversation
    After an appointment, think about what went well and what you could do differently next time, so you can have even better conversations about your health in the future.

Following these steps can help you feel more confident when describing symptoms and expressing concerns. You can become a better self-advocate, especially if you are living with a chronic condition.

“In my case, I was at first nervous to ask questions because of stigma around COPD and its connection with smoking – even though there are other causes, including workplace exposures, genetics and air pollution,” says Moore.

However, in this case, not asking questions could have serious consequences that even lead to hospitalization. With COPD, a mild flare-up may be a warning sign that more severe symptoms are on the horizon. Reporting the symptoms to a health-care provider can flag the need for a change in treatment – and that can help avoid more deadly consequences.

Find more information about this condition at lunghealth.ca/copd

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