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5 Steps for Medical Self-Advocacy

October 20, 2021

Written by Dawn Sheldon, MSN, RN and Qualified Professional

Dawn-Diatta; Dialysis Access Care ExpertYou are your own best advocate. When you're questioning the current state of your health, or the therapies you're receiving, it’s important that you advocate for yourself—in other words, stand up for yourself. 

It’s important to verbalize how you are feeling and openly share your concerns with your medical professional. This is your opportunity to speak up. You have the right to self-advocate. 

The results? 

You open a dialogue with your physician. He or she will understand your concerns and perspective. You and your physician will be on the same page. 

Leslie Ramos Salazar explains that patients who self-advocate:

  • Seek out information
  • Verbally assert themselves
  • Make informed decisions to not follow a treatment if they disagree with the physician’s prescription 

Patients can participate in their care. In fact, it is encouraged! 

Let’s talk about five steps for a patient’s medical self-advocacy: 

Understand the Purpose of Your Doctor Visit

The visit needs to be efficient. Your doctor is allotted so much time per visit. When you know the purpose of the visit, you can be concise and remain on topic.

Do Your Research

Do a quick search on the web and see if there are questions—with answers—about the topic you want to discuss with your doctor. Read those questions and answers. Take note of anything you may want to address. 

No access to the internet? Libraries are a good place to complete internet searches. You don’t need to limit your search to the internet, either. You can speak to your family and friends and see if they have had any personal experience with the topic. Take anything from them that you may want to investigate further to your physician.

Write It Down!

Write down your thoughts and questions. Writing down your concerns ensures that you will touch on everything you wish to discuss. No matter how prepared you think you are, write it down. 

Imagine leaving the doctor’s office, getting home, and realizing you forgot to ask an important question. Now, you’ll have to make another appointment and repeat these steps again. Save this piece of paper so you will not have to make another appointment. On the day of the appointment, bring the paper with you. If you do not, what purpose will it serve? 

Recruit a Friend to Be Your Note Taker

Wait, this was about self-advocacy. Why bring a friend? Your friend will take notes during the visit. You will have these notes to refer to later. 

When you are talking with your physician, you will not remember everything that is discussed. If friends and family are not available to come to your appointment, you can bring along your personal care assistant (PCA). 

But what if the doctor will not let you bring another person to the visit? This is not unheard of these days. If you have a smartphone, download a voice recording app. Ask your physicians permission to record the session. You will be able to listen to the recording at home. You may hear something you did not while sitting in the doctor’s office.

Implement the Plan

The outcome of your appointment is right in the notes. It is time to implement the plan! 

For example, if you’re having unexplained pain in your hand with no relief from pain medication, the next step is an X-ray. You have instructions to schedule an X-ray appointment. Go into action and perform those next steps.

Being prepared for a doctor’s visit, being informed, and having an attitude of advocating for yourself will begin a dialogue beneficial to you and your physician. The door will be open. You will have become an active participant in your care. The result could be a wonderful doctor-patient relationship—one that gives you the best care possible. 

To learn more about PCA services, and how this may help you, fill out our online form or call Best Care at (651) 330-2550. 

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