There are few careers in society that seem to split general opinion more than healthcare workers. More confusingly still, those attitudes tend to change depending on the last healthcare professional that we encountered. One minute everyone in the industry is a life-saving expert; the next we’re dismissing the entire industry out of hand.
The reality is – as is so often the case – somewhere in between. Of course, there are bad doctors, nurses, and technicians in this world. That’s unavoidable; there will always be one bad apple who can spoil your experience of the whole barrel. For the most part though, healthcare professionals have entered the profession out of a genuine desire to help other people.
When you are unwell, it’s natural that you want nothing but the good apples when it comes to coordinating your treatment. Doing so involves learning a few lessons about being a good patient, so that all the healthcare staff involved in your treatment can be at their best too. So what are the best ways to ensure you’re all able to work together to bring about the best results?
- Be Polite
Okay, so this seems a little bit rude doesn’t it – assuming that you’re not going to be polite? If that gets your back up a little then it’s probably a good sign, and suggests that you would always engage with any healthcare professional in the politest manner possible.
While that might be your intention, whether or not it’s something you actually achieve depends on a number of factors. Sure, it’s easy to sit reading this right now, unable to imagine yourself ever being anything but the height of politeness. However, can you say the same for a you of the future who is dealing with complications?
When we’re in pain, we all have a tendency to be a little more short-tempered than we might otherwise be. When we’re left sitting waiting for blood tests we had been promised would be back in an hour, that too can be a catalyst for irritation. If we feel we’ve been waiting too long to be seen at the ER, then that’s going to upset us as well.
It’s in these situations you need to be at your most polite, even though your brain is likely screaming at you to kick up a fuss and vent your frustration somewhere. In fact, the best way to calm down your frustrations is to focus on the second point…
To an extent, it’s easy to forget that doctors and nurses are human. They’re the people who can understand complex medical problems and bring forth solutions; the very gatekeepers to our own comfort and continued help. Medical science, when applied correctly, can feel more like being in the presence of witchcraft than an educated professional.
Remembering that the people coordinating your treatment are human is vital for calming your own annoyances. They’re not robots; nor did they stumble into this profession, applying after spotting an ad on Staffnurse jobs and thinking: “ooh, I fancy being a nurse now”. The same applies for doctors; we’re talking about years and years of complex study to reach the stage they’re at now. Study that involved not seeing their family as much as they would want; making sacrifices; getting into debt.
Before you enter any treatment, it’s also worth reminding yourself of what life is like for those working in the NHS at the moment. There’s a lot of patients and rarely enough staff, so try and be understanding if the people you are dealing with seem stressed or don’t spend as much time with you as you would like. They are probably overworked, taking on long shifts, and are doing the best they can with what they have available to them.
When you focus on these two areas, it should be easier to control your temper if you feel yourself growing frustrated regarding something to do with your care.
- Be Honest
If a doctor asks you how many units of alcohol you drink in a week, then tell them. Don’t tell them the nice version; the sanitised number that you’re more comfortable admitting to yourself and to them. Tell them the actual number. The same goes for the amount you exercise and whether or not you smoke.
Doctors don’t ask these questions because they want an excuse to give you a lecture. They ask because there are genuine clinical reasons that you need to know. As an example, it’s inadvisable to take certain birth control pills if you’re a heavy smoker, due to the increased risk of blood clots. If you haven’t been honest with your doctor, then they’re not going to know whether what they prescribe to you in terms of medication or treatment is actually safe for you to use.
It’s also worth thinking about why you feel the need to lie. If you’re not able to be honest, that suggests you know – on some level – that a behaviour that you’re engaging in is not the best, healthiest choice. It would be more beneficial if you were to take the confession of a vice as a leaping off point for discussion on what help they may be able to provide you to help rectify the issue.
- Don’t Exaggerate
When you’re not feeling well, the temptation to exaggerate can be… very tempting indeed. When the doctor asks you how bad you feel, we all have a tendency to actually hear it as: “so, how seriously do you want me to take your problem?”
That’s not what’s going on; they’re just trying to ascertain the level of help you need. If you exaggerate, then that’s not getting the trust-building process between you off to a good start. You run the risk of not being trusted in future when it comes to describing your symptoms, not to mention the fact you could be over-medicated. Given that medications tend to come with a whole list of side effects, this is very much like shooting yourself in the foot.
Furthermore, when you do exaggerate, there’s every chance you’re going to deny quicker intervention to someone who truly needs it. Just think how you would feel if you were the one who needed more attention or to jump to the top of the queue; you’d want to know no one was holding your place, wouldn’t you? So spread a little more good in the world and always report your symptoms as honestly as you possibly can.
- Follow Their Advice
If you’re told to do something by a medical professional, then there’s a reason they have told you that.
One of the worst ways patients disobey medical advice is when they are told to fast prior to surgery and blood tests. They get to 11pm the night before and the lure of the cookie jar is far too strong, so they think: well, one biscuit isn’t going to hurt, is it?
Well yes – it is. You’re told to fast for very sound medical reasons. If you do eat, then it could impact the results of any blood tests, especially if they are measuring your blood sugar levels. Even more dangerously, if you decide to eat prior to surgery, there’s a real risk it could threaten your life. When intubated for surgery, you could be sick, which can be aspirated into the lungs. That’s a complication that is every bit as dangerous as it sounds.
These are just two examples of why, if you’re told to do something by a medical professional, you should absolutely obey it as far as is conceivably possible. If you’re not sure why you’re being instructed to do something, then ask – no medical professional worth their salt is going to pass up an opportunity to help inform someone.
- If You Don’t Follow Their Advice, Tell Them
If you do go your own way and ignore medical advice – you rebel, you! – then at least ensure you tell them you’ve done it. As the two examples above prove, there are sound clinical reasons why they might need to know.
They’re not going to be angry. They’re not going to judge you. There’s absolutely no doubt that they have seen it many, many times before! They will think far better of you if you’re honest about something that’s incredibly easy to do. By telling the truth, you guarantee they are furnished with all the information they need to continue your treatment in the best way they possibly can.
So, while it can be stressful, irritating, and uncomfortable dealing with medical professionals, the above should help you handle the situation as well as possible. By working together with the pros, you can be sure you get the best treatment that’s suitable to your individual circumstances. There’s no need for the relationship to be adversarial. If you do all of the above and still experience a problem, it’s also worth remembering that you’re always within your rights to seek a second opinion if required.
Disclossure: This is a collaborative post.