If you like reading books about medical mysteries and hospital disasters, then you’ll love In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope, by Dr. Rana Awdish.
In short, Dr. Awdish, an ICU physician, ends up a patient in her own ICU. Her story is a beautifully written, but horrific, page-turner. We see her as a vulnerable patient, no longer in control of her life or her care. It’s a difficult position for anyone to be in, but especially so for a doctor.
During her long ordeal, her eyes are opened to how poorly doctors communicate with patients. She often feels invisible, unheard and disrespected.
Her experience not only inspired her to be a better doctor, but to help doctors and patients communicate more effectively with each other.
Conversations that occur in doctors’ offices or at a hospital bedside are some of the most critical any of us will ever have….Yet both doctors and patients lack the tools necessary to ensure that the needs of each side are met.
We can do better.
These encounters are too important for us to passively allow them to happen.
Tips for patients to communicate more effectively
In the appendix of her book, Dr. Awdish includes tips for both doctors and patients to communicate more effectively with each other.
For patients, these tips include:
- Bring someone with you as an extra pair of eyes and ears, especially for “high stakes” appointments. Ask them to write down as much of the conversation as possible so you can review it later.
- Make a list of questions before your appointment. Brainstorm your thoughts and then prioritize your questions so the most important get asked first.
- Begin your appointment with an agenda-setting statement (prepared in advance), such as “What I hope to accomplish today is…”
- Keep a journal of your symptoms, and bring it with you to your appointment. Pay attention to when the symptoms started, what makes the symptoms better or worse, and how the symptoms have changed over time.
- Ask If you are unsure about something. Doctors spend years learning medical jargon and sometimes have trouble translating for the rest of us. Don’t hesitate to ask for something to be repeated or explained differently.
- Leave the appointment with an action plan. Do you know what the next step is in treating your condition, such as a lab test, x-ray or referral? Do you know what to do if you feel worse? Or better?
Dr. Awdish goes into more detail in her book, so pick up a copy if you’re interested in knowing more.
Her nightmare journey as a patient is gripping, and well worth reading. Although if you’re pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant, and you scare easily…well, maybe you should give it a miss. 😨
In that case, here are some other posts I’ve written on the topic of communicating with your doctors:
- Be informed—Shared decision-making
- Tips for the doctor’s office
- Choosing Wisely—5 questions to ask your doctor
And here are some more of my favorite books: