3 Ways To Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate

Fear. Anger. Uncertainty. Hopelessness. Loneliness.

These emotions are a range of feelings you might have after you’ve been given a diagnosis. How do you go from that end of the spectrum to feeling empowered, in control, knowledgable and having a sense of relief?

You become your own health advocate.

But, how do you become your own health advocate?

As a registered nurse, I’m going to share with you 3 ways to become your own health advocate.

Step 1: Do the research

Finding health information on the internet can be overwhelming. Start your research by obtaining information on your diagnosis, treatment, or a procedure from credible, science based resources. A characteristic of credible information is the website has authority – meaning it ends in .org, .gov, .edu.

Another characteristic is that it’s current, meaning it’s less than 3-4 years old, and it’s written by someone who’s a healthcare professional with the credentials such as DO/MD, BSN, MSN, PhD, APN, Pharm D, etc.

Lastly, a website might be a scam if it tries to sell you a treatment that states it can work for any condition – no One treatment works for everyone. When someone uses the word “natural,” it doesn’t always mean that it is SAFE or that it works, also, personal stories or anecdotes are not proof that a product works. Be critical of information that you take in, videos that you watch, and of the internet in general. Another tip I have is as you read this information, write down questions you have, and save these questions for when you visit your healthcare provider. Often times when you’re in the moment or emotions are high, you might forget a question and it can be hard to get ahold of your provider later on. Some of my favorite resources for credible medical information are Medline Plus, The Mayo Clinic, & John Hopkins Library

Step 2: Reach out and get support!

Coping with unexpected news can be emotionally draining, it can be taxing.. and I don’t recommend it. If you’re ready, reach out to loved ones like friends or family. Reach out to people that you trust and feel close to. If you’re having a therapy session or a treatment, or you have a doctor’s appointment, bring someone with you! Bring along a family member – give them a job like writing down information, asking a question. I often tell my patients 2 sets of ears are better than one. One person might pick up on something the other person didn’t. Also, research shows that people who have social support are more resilient, and resiliancy helps with reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation, which often times leads to improved outcomes. Remember, you’re not alone.

Step 3: Communicate effectively

With communication, be a teammate, be kind, and be persistent. Listening is an important part of communication and remember, communication is a 2 way street. You want a provider that hears you out and listens to your concerns, but you also want to listen to your provider or nurse when they give you an explanation as to why a medication or treatment might not be a great option for you.

Take notes, and really make sure you understand your treatment plan, if you don’t – ask for clarification. Medical terminology can be difficult to understand, don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare provider or nurse explain something in a different way if you’re not understanding the information.

What have you learned? Have you ever had to advocate for yourself in a healthcare setting?

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