Standing up for Yourself in the Medical System

Advocating for yourself and getting your needs met in the medical system can be so challenging.

Advocacy  can be defined as equality and dignity as a patient. Some would say advocating for yourself means  being treated with respect.  To advocate is to share, express or highlight the needs and desires of the patient.

You are an equal part of the team with your doctors, nurses and health professionals so that your health is enriched.

Standing up for yourself does not have to happen alone. Sometimes another set of ears and eyes is helpful, such as when  a friend or family member  comes to appointments with you.

Communication with your medical team is the goal.

To facilitate an open dialogue, it may help if you write down your questions ahead of the appointment so that you can keep your focus. You want your doctor, nurse or physician’s assistant to deliver quality care for you while they are  upholding medical values and ethics, such as your quality of life.  If you have questions, it is your job to ask them.  And if you don’t understand, ask for another explanation or to repeat what was said.

Working together as a team means reviewing your care and treatment plans together.  It often also means asking for medical language to be explained- especially medical procedures that might be in your treatment plan and future.

The best quality of care always includes respect and compassion for you as the patient. The goal is not to be a ‘good patient’, but rather to get good care from your team.  They are there to help you and work together with you.

Whether medical services, or mental or emotional health issues, you have a right to good care and a right to be heard. Most clinics and hospitals have a  physicians’ assistant, a nurse navigator or a social worker and when requested, these people are terrific at explaining medical issues.

If all else fails, and you do not feel ‘listened to’, asking for the nursing supervisor or the chief of staff is an option, as they may be able to explain the reasoning behind your care issues.

Advocating for yourself or for loved ones does not come easily for most of us, especially when we are most vulnerable with an illness and are in a medical system with unique vocabulary and terms we don’t understand.   Asking for a friend’s help and being prepared to ask questions at your appointment that will benefit your health is not only appropriate, it is very important.

We’re all in this together, and working together, we  want to see each other thrive and age ‘healthfully’!