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You and Your Health: Be Your Own Advocate

holding hands in support

My neighbor, Pat, had her right hip replaced. After enduring weeks of therapy and fighting an infection, she left rehab, went home and, three hours later, fell and broke her good leg. She had another surgery and 60 more days of rehabilitation.

Pat went for a checkup, spent a half hour in the waiting room and another two-and-a-half hours in an exam room. She heard her doctor in the hallway and wheeled herself out.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

“I have been waiting three hours for you to examine my incision!” Pat responded curtly.

He saw her right away. A few weeks later, she switched doctors.

The Doctor-Patient Relationship

Most of us have good relationships with our doctors. But we might have experienced situations where our doctors have been short with us or made us feel they were not on our side. We can be terribly vulnerable when we are sick. Having a doctor who treats us like a human being can help us recover better since it can decrease our stress. Stress affects the immune system.

We need a good doctor-patient relationship, one of mutual respect. We must respect our doctors with their expertise and busy schedules in these times of skyrocketing health-care costs. But our doctors need to respect us, too. When we feel that our doctor is not treating us well, we owe it to ourselves and our health to let him or her know how we feel. It might be hard to do, but it is our right to be treated with dignity.

Doctors may know medicine, but we know our conditions best. It is our responsibility to tell them accurately and honestly what we are experiencing physically. When our doctors treat us like active participants, we become partners in our healing.

Be Not Afraid

If we are not satisfied with our doctors, we must be proactive. We can speak up using nonconfrontational language and tell our doctors if we do not feel respected. We must ask questions about our conditions and try to build a better relationship with our doctors before we look for replacements. Changing doctors can be challenging because of health insurance, lack of specialists or due to geographical distances. We can ask friends for doctor referrals, and we can check medical credentials online. Asking actual patients about a doctor’s bedside manner is also critical.

Sirach 38:1 offers some wise words: “Hold the physician in honor, for he is essential to you, and God it was who established his profession.”

God created us—doctors and patients. Each of us deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of our educational backgrounds, occupations or financial assets. We are not less than our doctors.


Handy Tips

  • Be an active participant in your health care and a partner with your doctor.
  • Take a proactive stance if you feel your doctor is not answering your questions or intimidates you. Tell him or her how you feel.
  • Remember that doctors want us to stay healthy!

Next Month: Being a Homebody


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