When I was 22 years old, I heard the words, “There is nothing wrong with you”. It was not a loving and encouraging compliment. It was the dismissal spoken by a doctor who had finished his assessment of me and wanted me to leave the office.
There really was something wrong, but it took me another 15 years to find that it was gluten intolerance - something that had troubled me most of my life.
After that experience, it is baffling that I decided to enter the health arena as a professional. But I found it a fascinating way to relate to people in a profound way. Now I try to offer tools to assist those who have lost some aspect of health.
Unfortunately, I see people bypassing simple self-care, preferring to rely on professionals who encourage dependency.
I don’t expect people to handle their complicated medical problems, but folks do have innate wisdom that can come in handy before problems get complicated. I want to encourage each glorious person to trust that innate wisdom and that’s why I’m writing this brief primer to help you relate to and choose a health professional with whom to work.
Questioning can be healthy. If you want to engage in your health as your own personal advocate, you have a lot of ways to do it. Here are my thoughts. Be sure to see "True Story" at the end of this post for the update in attitudes.
Unless you are in a country that tightly controls medical options and protocols, you probably have a choice of a medical professional. That’s right. You are the boss. You should be able to set the tone and hire a trusted advisor. Don’t settle for being led. Take an interest. You are like the manager and your body is your project.
4 Ways to navigate your choices
We shop everything, right? So we should also investigate our choices in doctor care. Shop around. You may use the internet or ask others who have had similar problems for good referrals. When you go for opinions, evaluate how easy it is to talk to the person. Sometimes the most accomplished professionals are the most modest. Do you have options presented in a non-judgmental way? No medical condition is a cookie cutter condition. You want to find a professional who will think beyond the obvious and consider your set of health issues.
Understand the field influencing of the professional giving a recommendation. What is their hammer/nail perspective? Usually, a surgeon will recommend surgery. But if a surgeon says you won’t need surgery, that can be very interesting. It may say something about their integrity. As always, your next step is to ask why. Be inquisitive. The information can move the whole exercise from a nail/hammer interpretation to the germination of a new possibilities.
Usually your conversation will yield an agreeable tone that allows each of you - your physician and yourself - to learn about what is expected. However, if your questions for specifics elicit sharply worded responses – aka anger, you must ask yourself, why is he/she so defensive? What are the stakes that I’m not aware of? Is the medical person more interested in protecting his own identity instead of my care?
Here is a short list of unacceptable responses.
I’ve heard doctors tell patients not to consult other non-medical practitioners. Is this because they believe the other schools and practitioners are not competent or are they protecting their own turf? You have to wonder.
When a doctor tells you he/she has treated a lot of these cases, it may be that he/she is substituting quantity over quality. The number of cases he/she has had doesn’t necessarily translate into successful outcomes. The practice of medicine is never an exact science and the specifics of your case need to be expressed and discussed so there are realistic expectations on both sides.
There are usually many ways to approach an illness. Each professional will have their preferred way of addressing a problem in their field. However, if a physician poses the threat of danger (or worse) if you do not follow their singular recommendation, you should have questions unless you hear the same thing from other, thoughtful professionals. Remember #1.
Avoiding discussions of controversial issues
You should expect a willingness to discuss anything that might concern you. Your questions deserve answers, even if the answer is "I don't know". Watch out for the “dodger” who may be a nice and charming person but is unwilling to discuss the tough issues.
Please don't fail to examine the full disclosure statement listing all the possible side effects for the specific procedure being offered. If you decide not to proceed, you are allowed to change your mind.
As far as prescribed medications are concerned, the only authoritative disclosure is the manufacturer's package insert. Be aware of the warnings enclosed. The medications could be more hazardous than you are willing to tolerate.
My husband recently had a serious condition that had us baffled. He agreed to go to our local hospital but only under certain conditions. Once there, he stated his wishes openly and clearly. The medical staff received it well and were extremely conciliatory, professional, and cooperative. I was proud to see how the medical profession has made way for the new, proactive health consumer. Whew!
If you feel unequipped to make important decisions when choosing a health provider, ask a knowledgeable relative or friend to accompany you. Don’t forget to include holistic services when possible and, as always, ask a lot of questions. Judge both the answers and attitudes as best you can.
Health is anything that can affect how we respond to the world. Those responses can result in good health or bad. We all recognize it is not simple.
Try to make smart health choices routinely, whenever you can. When you need expert advice, ask questions and keep an open mind. Your engagement will assist your medical advisors to offer the best choices.