A doctor-patient relationship should be a two-way street with open communication, trust, and empathy.
With doctor visits averaging around 18 minutes these days, time is of the essence.
You may have heard horror stories of how bad these appointments can be, so what can you do to proactively communicate with your medical team? How can you advocate for yourself in this current healthcare system?
Here are five tips for having better conversations with your diabetes doctor.
A little self-reflection goes a long way, so think back to the last appointment you had:
As you know, stress can impact your blood sugar levels. Even if you’ve been doing everything “right” — taking your medications as prescribed, moving your body regularly, and following a nutrition plan that helps stabilize your blood sugar levels — you may not be seeing results.
It’s entirely possible that life events and the stress that surrounds them could be contributing to elevated blood sugar levels in your body.
One of the best things you can do to advocate for yourself is to pay attention to how you’re feeling and keep a log of it leading up to your appointment. Write down a list of what you’re experiencing in your body, how this is impacting your mental health, and any questions you have.
If your doctor gave you a treatment protocol at your last appointment, reflect on how you’ve integrated it into your life and be open and honest about any challenges you’re facing.
If they asked you to keep a food log, be sure to bring that with you. In addition, bring a log of your blood sugar readings to your appointment to help guide your doctor to make any necessary changes to your medication regimen.
Your doctor has a degree, clinical experience, and access to resources that can make your journey easier. While they may have seen hundreds or thousands of people with diabetes over the course of their career, you are the expert on living in your body every day. You have control over how you nourish yourself, how you move your body, and how you manage your stress.
When I was first diagnosed, my doctor prescribed metformin. At my first follow-up appointment a few weeks later, they wanted to prescribe a medication for cholesterol as well.
Since my diagnosis, I had done a complete lifestyle overhaul to support positive health outcomes. I changed my diet, started walking every morning, identified areas where I could better manage my stress, and took my medications as prescribed.
One of the best things you can do to advocate for yourself is to pay attention to how you’re feeling and keep a log of it leading up to your appointment.
Instead of assuming I had to take the medication and I didn’t have a choice, I asked a question:
“Doc, I just made a complete lifestyle overhaul. Is it possible to wait for a few months to see if these changes help resolve the cholesterol levels before we add another medication to my treatment plan?”
It was scary to advocate for myself. I was raised to do what the doctor says and trust them explicitly. The (usually male) doctor in the white coat had the final say and that was that.
But in doing so, I showed my doctor that I was committed to these changes and I’m serious about my health. They were happy to wait on prescribing another medication, and at my next follow-up, my cholesterol levels were within healthy ranges.
When I was first diagnosed, my doctor handed me a pamphlet about some diabetes education classes that were available through the hospital. They were centered around nutritional changes and a foundational understanding of what diabetes does in the body. I found them incredibly helpful.
In the years after my diagnosis, I realized that what was missing for me, however, was a social component: a community. I wanted to talk with other people with diabetes and hear their stories.
Ask your doctor about support and resources that exist outside the hospital. If they come up short, the Bezzy T2D community is active, helpful, and incredibly supportive.
Doctors being spread thin and rushing through appointments isn’t unique to the pandemic. Unfortunately, this has been the standard of care for years in the United States.
Instead of assuming I had to take the medication and I didn’t have a choice, I asked a question.
Regardless of how your appointment goes, show gratitude for your doctor. Before you leave, thank them and the other staff members for their hard work.
This is a difficult time to be a healthcare professional, and a little empathy goes a long way.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Even if your doctor is the one with the letters behind their name, it doesn’t mean your needs aren’t valid. A doctor-patient relationship should be a two-way street with open communication, trust, and empathy.
If you aren’t able to find that within your current medical team, consider having a conversation with your physician about how you felt after the appointment.
If you’ve already been down this road and you’re still feeling a lack of support from your medical team, consider seeking out a second opinion.
Medically reviewed on March 31, 2022
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