In an overloaded healthcare system with often-exhausted medical professionals, knowing how to advocate for the health treatment you deserve is more important than ever. It’s frightening how many of us face barriers in getting the treatment we need. People feel discriminated against in health care settings for a multitude of reasons, such as their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, income, insurance status, language or accent, weight, and health or disability status.
Sometimes you need to work extra hard to have your concerns taken seriously. After all, you know your body better than anyone else. So, when it comes to your health, keep in mind that you’re the best person to communicate your health needs.Here are some ways to help you advocate for yourself:
If you're able to choose your healthcare provider, try and get a personal recommendation from someone you trust. If you have a specific issue that you’re concerned about, you can look for someone who is specialized in that topic. For example, if you’re having a health issue that’s hormone-related but your OB/GYN isn’t sure about the cause, an Endocrinologist might be able to help you find answers. Or if you’re transgender, you might prefer a trans friendly OB/GYN. You can also find recommendations online and through support groups.
Write things down
It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and flustered in an appointment; or if you’re like me your mind can just go blank! Make a list of issues you want to cover at the appointment, and questions you’d like answered, including the main reason for your visit. If you’re seeing your doctor about a specific complaint, note when it started, what you’ve tried already, what makes it better or worse, and any associated symptoms that you’ve been experiencing.
Listen to Your Body
It’s sometimes difficult to push back against treatment or advice but if you don’t feel like something is working for you, say so. You may not want to seem like the “difficult patient”, but it is surprising how often you may be right! Medical teams are busy, they might miss something you’re simply more aware of. Don’t settle for a treatment you’re uncomfortable with.
Another important part of self-advocacy is surrounding yourself with people who can speak for you when you can’t. It can help to have a friend, family member or significant other at the appointment with you. They can give you moral support and vouch for your symptoms. You might find you feel more confident and able to assert yourself when you have your support person there with you.
Second Opinions Can’t Hurt
If something doesn’t feel right, try to get a second opinion, or take some time to think things over. Do your best, and try not to be pressured into rushing into any treatment or procedure that you’re not sure about. It might feel awkward but getting another opinion when you don’t feel heard is absolutely the right move.
No matter what level of apprehension you might have about your lack of knowledge regarding your healthcare journey, it’s important that you take charge. And it does take practise! It can be really difficult to assert yourself to a doctor, especially when we feel a sense of authority from them. Baby steps — be proud of the progress you’ve made to keep fighting for the care that you deserve.