It is important that you are as involved in your medical care as your doctor is. No, you may not know everything there is to know about medicine, but you do know yourself. You know what you’re allergic to, your history of pain or symptoms, and if a treatment is or is not working.
When you’re visiting your doctor or have to go to the hospital for an emergency, you need to be able to stand up for yourself and your needs. Sometimes, doctors or nurses don’t listen or do make medical mistakes. It’s up to you to stop them if they are calling you by the incorrect name or if you see that they’re trying to give you a medication that you haven’t ever heard of. You deserve clarity before receiving any treatment and should always be informed.
What kinds of questions should you ask your doctor or nurse?
When you’re working with a new doctor or nurse, it’s a good idea to have some simple questions ready for them. Ask if they are familiar with working with patients with your diagnosis (if you have one). Ask questions about a diagnosis or test they’re giving you, so you know what to expect.
If you’re not sure about something that’s happening, you have a right to a second opinion. You also have a right to refuse treatment in some cases.
Advocating for yourself helps prevent medical errors
When you take control and responsibility for your own health history, you can help prevent some serious errors. You may notice that you didn’t receive a medication on time. You may speak up and say that the mark on your leg for surgery is on the wrong side. You might even say that you never received your allergy wristband even though you have serious reactions to certain drugs.
Speaking up and pointing out errors, no matter how small, will put you in a better position and greatly reduce the likelihood of errors. While errors should never occur, doctors and other medical staff are human. You can play a role in helping them avoid errors and keeping yourself safe.