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Mindful : April 2013
Make a List Bernhard says going into an appointment with a list helps you “keep your at tention on the task at hand.” The key is clarity and setting an agenda, says Korsch: “Get your concerns into the interaction early and also allow the doctor to state what his or her plans are.” Be realistic about the amount of information that may fit reasonably into one appoint- ment, but don’t let any issues drop off your radar or your doctor’s. If need be, book an additional appointment to get ever ything covered. Be in the Room It’s a rare appoint- ment when you don’t have at least some waiting to do, and Bernhard suggests two ways of approaching that. If she’s feeling anxious, she sits and concentrates on her breathing. “It calms my body and gives me courage. I bring my attention back to my body and feel whole again, rather than all scattered.” If she feels restless and bored while waiting in the examining room, she practices being present. “I focus on my senses and scan the room, looking at the equip- ment, the pictures on the wall.” This transforms waiting times into times of engagement. Be Kind While it’s easy to get swept away by your own fears and disappointments, Bernhard says, try to remember your doctor is human, too. And don’t take it personally if an interaction doesn’t go the way you had hoped. Being kind, respectful, and pa- tient in any relation- ship can do nothing but good. This doesn’t mean that if you’re sick you have to put on a happy face. You just need to remember that the two people in the room are both seeking the best outcome possible. Consider Taking Someone with You If you have a loved one or a friend in the room with you, this can trigger greater communi- cation. Doctors can sometimes be more detailed in their explanations for the benefit of that third person, says Bernhard. If complicated matters are being discussed, another set of ears and moral support can be excellent. How- ever, according to Korsch, for routine appointments, you may not want to complicate your relationship with your doctor. Seek Answers “If you’re confused about something, don’t let it slide. But don’t take a con- frontational stance either,” says Korsch. “Go with an open mind and with ques- tions and concerns and state them up front.” Bernhard adds: “Don’t be afraid to question treatment and ask about alternatives. It spurs doctors to talk to you about what’s going on in their heads, and you want them to share that with you.” While feeling ill and needing help is a highly vulner- able position to be in, don’t let that translate into be- ing embarrassed about your needs or cur tailing your questions. Once you stop blaming yourself for needing help, you can really star t to take care of yourself. 12345 By Line Goguen-Hughes When it comes to getting the most out of a doctor’s appointment, the goal is to “get the doctor’s atten- tion, so he or she sees you as a flesh-and-blood human being, not just as a body with symptoms,” says Toni Bernhard, author of How to Be Sick. We also asked Dr. Barbara Korsch, author of The Intelligent Patient’s Guide to the Doctor-Patient Relationship, to share her insights. Here’s Mindful’s summary: Getting You & Your Doctor Tuned In April 2013 mindful 37