Post contains Amazon affiliate links to some very helpful books to teach your how to talk to your doctor.
When Apollo was endlessly sick with his mysterious illness I read. A lot. I read about doctors, nurses, sick kids, and how to keep you kids healthy. I read about how to get your baby to sleep through the night and how to soothe them when they were fussy. The most important books I read, however, taught me how to talk to doctors and how to advocate as a parent.
I imagine a lot of you, like me, were raised in a world where doctors knew everything. They were rarely wrong, and you certainly didn’t question them. They were the experts after all. Today I still hold doctors in the highest esteem. They have years of training and experience and without them my son would not be alive. However, I no longer see them as infallible and I know to get proper care, I need to part of the team caring for my son, not simply an observer.
The reality is, Apollo would not have gotten a diagnosis and treatment without my firm advocacy for him. One of the most important things I have done is educate myself on how to talk to doctors, something I have decided to share here.
The best books I have read on how to talk to your doctor:
How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman
If you only read one book this year, read How Doctors Think. I gained amazing insight that truly helped me communicate with Apollo’s many doctors. Groopman, a doctor himself, candidly discusses: how a doctor feels about a patients does, indeed, affect treatment, he discusses how to communicate clearly with your doctor, he gives warning signs to look for to avoid poor care and he talks honestly about the mistakes doctors make.
Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande
This book was great for giving me an understanding of how and why doctors make mistakes (they are after all human) and how to advocate so they don’t. Gawande opens up about mistakes (his own and others) and how they affect patients, doctors and their relationships. Well worth the read! In his follow-up book, Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, he covers his strategies on how to make the practice of modern medicine safer.
How Patients Should Think: 10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Drugs, Tests and Treatments by Ray Moynihan and Melissa Sweet.
This book is perfectly straightforward. If you don’t know what to ask or where to begin, this book has the answers (or, more accurately the questions) for you. After reading this book I felt confident looking Apollo’s doctors right in the eye and asking hard questions such as, “How many times have you done this procedure? What are the outcomes? What is the long-term prognosis?”. You are putting your’s child’s very life in the doctors hands, don’t be afraid to get answers to your questions!
My practical advise as a mom is simple:
- Ask questions. It is your doctor’s job to educate as well as treat you. Reading How Patients Should Think will help you come up with a list of relevant questions.
- Take notes. We have a notebook filled with notes from Apollo’s doctor’s visits and hospitalizations. It is rare for me to have a conversation with a doctor without having my notebook and pen ready.
- Do your research. Maybe googling your child’s every symptom isn’t a great idea, but do find a way to education yourself about your child’s ailment. Read books, talk to other parents (Facebook groups are great for this), ask for resources from your doctor.
- Trust your instinct. It was our instinct as parents that kept us going back to the doctor time after time, even when they insisted he was fine.
Have you ever had to advocate for your child? Or ask the hard questions? Have you ever had to switch doctors because of inadequate care?