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Five Ways to Find Your Voice

One of the many challenges when you have cancer is dealing with so many different healthcare professionals. You may consult several specialists, be seen at different clinics and receive care from a variety of nurses and technicians. It’s easy to feel anonymous – or even invisible – each time you meet a new caregiver.

That’s why it’s important to set expectations up front about how you want to be treated. In our last post, we talked about the benefits that come from doctors treating their patients as human beings. We even cited a study that showed a link between respect and patient safety.

You have the right to expect respect from the healthcare team. Set the stage for positive interactions with these steps:

1. Make a Plan

Know in advance what you want from the appointment. Do you want to mention a side effect you’re experiencing? Do you need more information about why you’re having a certain test? Make a list of what you want to cover and share it with the provider.

2. Take Someone with You

In a Consumer Reports study, people who had a family member or friend to act as an advocate were 16 percent more likely to say they had been treated with respect. A trusted family member or friend can act as your backup, ask hard questions and press for clarity. Plus, it’s great to have someone in your corner when you’re not feeling your best.

3. Humanize Your Visit

Add personal details when you describe your symptoms or ask questions. For example, mention that you want to feel well enough to attend a granddaughter’s wedding or support your team in the playoffs. These details can spark a conversation and help others see you as a person, not just a diagnosis.

4. Assert Yourself

You can be assertive, while remaining courteous. If you’re not clear on an explanation, raise your hands in a timeout position and say that you need to hear it again in everyday language. It’s okay to remind someone that you haven’t been to medical school and could use a translation.

5. Write Things Down

Taking notes during your appointment can help you remember key details, like instructions or next steps. It can also slow down the discussion and remind the team that even though they may have covered the same information with others, it’s new to you and therefore important. Just like you.

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