Your Job as a Patient

A healthcare professional — be it doctor, nurse, or physician assistant — can’t do their job if you don’t do yours, so we talk about the important ways you can help your doctor help you.

Healthcare is a team sport, and you have an important role to play. If you’ve had our 3 Steps Detect training, you know your job as a patient is part of Step 3. You need to be prepared for your appointment, know what to ask, and how to follow up.

It’s normal to feel some fear when you go to the doctor, but preparation can help you feel less scared and more in control.

Common Mistakes We Make as Patients

Wait Too Long Before Calling the Doctor

You may ignore and minimize symptoms, hoping they will go away on their own. Sometimes they do, but if they don’t, if they last more than 2 weeks, you need to find out what’s causing it. If you wait too long to investigate a health change, it will probably get worse, and be more complicated to treat.

Unprepared for Our Doctor’s Appointment

It is a mistake to think it’s ok to show up at the doctor’s office unprepared. Taking a few minutes to prepare before an appointment will make a big difference. Preparing lists, notes, and questions, so you can explain your symptoms and not forget anything is really important. Doctors don’t have a lot of time for each patient, sometimes seeing 20 patients in a day, so your prep helps them deliver the best care.

Not Always Honest with the Doctor

When talking to your doctor, you have to tell the truth, even if it’s embarrassing or uncomfortable. You may not want to tell your provider about habits that you know you should quit because they aren’t good for you. You may not like to talk about parts of your body or things that seem gross, but without a full and complete understanding of what’s going on, your doctor can’t help you. Nothing surprises them. They deal with this stuff all the time.

Don’t Ask Enough Questions

There’s no such thing as a dumb question in your provider’s office. Doctors can sometimes use technical terms without even realizing it. If you don’t understand something your doctor says, ask. If the advice they give you is not going to work for you for some reason, say so.

It is part of your job as a patient to ask questions, and a great way to help your doctor with early detection. Being an active patient and a strong self advocate will get you better healthcare, no matter the issue or illness.

Don’t Follow Through

Whether it’s waiting for a test result assuming that no news is good news, not tracking down test results, or reporting back to the doctor that the problem hasn’t resolved, what happens after the appointment is YOUR responsibility.