Talking with the Doctor

Good communication is often the key to good care. You need to be able to give complete and honest facts about your health to your doctor so that she can diagnose and treat you. And you need to be able to understand your doctor, so you know what to do when you leave the office or health center. Say Ah!’s tips can help!

Talk with your doctor
Be honest
Tell your health story
Speak up
Be sure you understand
Make sure you remember
Take your time

You should be able to talk with your doctor: Before we get into how to talk with your doctor, you should feel comfortable speaking with yours. You may have to talk about very personal stuff, and you may have to ask lots of questions or disagree with your doctor. If you can’t do these things with yours, find another doctor — or ask to see a different one if you are using the campus health center.

Be honest. Give your doctor the most accurate and complete information about your health, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable to do so. Keep two things in mind: (1) your doctor has heard it all so you won’t shock her; and (2) you have a right to confidentiality.

Explain what is wrong by telling your health story. You’ve come to the doctor to get a diagnosis not give one, so tell the story of what is wrong or what happened. For example, “Yesterday, I fell and bruised my elbow. Today it is swollen.”

Speak up if something doesn’t feel right or isn’t. (For example, the doctor gives a diagnosis before you are finished describing symptoms; the doctor hasn’t washed her hands before examining you, etc.) You are your own best advocate!

Be sure you understand the doctor’s instructions or information before you leave the office. Ask as many questions you need to. You can ask your doctor to repeat what she said or use visual aids. Try repeating back what the doctor said in your own words.

Make sure you remember what to do or what the doctor said. Take notes or record the conversation (with the doctor’s permission), or bring someone with you and have them take notes.

Take your time. Unless it is urgent or an emergency, you may want to think about, research, discuss (with your mom, dad or guardian, for example) treatment options, risks and benefits, and so on.

Click on the following links for more information about how to talk your doctor about medications and tests and procedures.