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5 ways to be your own health advocate

Being your own health advocate is such an important topic for me. As a health care provider for over 10 years I have heard so many sad stories from women of all different age groups not feeling seen or heard. Some having operations or procedures they know nothing about, why they need them, or what the outcome was or will be. I find it to be one of my passions to help women be seen and heard in multiple ways throughout life. I am going to share 5 ways to be your own health advocate. I hope to shed some light into how we as women get lost in the mix with this post a many more to follow.

At your next Dr.'s appt, what are the things you are wanting from the staff, nurses, doctors? For me, I have been on multiple zoom appointments lately where the Doctor wont even make eye contact with me. The entire time! This does not build trust in me. I already feel vulnerable and nervous about going to them for a specific reason and to not be acknowledged as a human is the worst! If I am sharing something with you, please look at me.

To help you prepare, Write down what you hope from your experience. Are they meeting this for you? Do you feel comfortable, safe, and heard so ask and share information about yourself. If not, move on. It is OKAY to move on!

Don't lose sight of WHY you are at this appointment. What do you need answered? Did you get your answers met or are you still confused? Have them explain. Make sure they explain. If they run short on time, ask if you can speak to a nurse to clarify. Write down your questions and concerns beforehand! This appointment is FOR and ABOUT you. You can always bring your safe person with you to the appointment and share with them what you want covered and discussed. If you miss anything, they are there to help you as well as be another set of ears to listen if or when you get overwhelmed.

If a procedure needs to be performed, ask fully what they are looking for/doing. If you are uncomfortable, it is OKAY to say, "I don't think today is the day" and reschedule! You may need time to digest what they are wanting to do, you want to talk to a family member or safe person, or you may want to do your own research first. Whatever the reason may be, you have choices. This is all PERFECTLY fine and a BIG part of being your OWN health advocate.

At the end of the appointment, what is the next step? Medications, surgery, referral to another specialist? Do you understand why they want this next step for you and are there any alternatives you may feel more comfortable with trying first. NEVER feel like anything is "end all be all" if you are anxious about the next step. If surgery is advised, take a deep breath, follow your gut and do what you need to do to prepare. You may feel rushed to make a decision NOW. Remember, you are in control, it is your body and mind. It's okay to ask for some time to process.

Do you feel hopeful and strong or more anxious, scared than you were when you walked in? Why do you feel good or feel worse? Write it down! Do you feel like you need a second opinion? Did you feel heard and validated? Did their ego get in the way? Anything that didn't settle well for you can be a red flag for you.

Remember, the Doctor may not have realized either that they didn't give you what you need. Its okay to voice your concerns. Email or call the office and let them know how you felt. It could have easily been a misunderstanding or not meant to be malicious. They may have a specific protocol to follow and they can better explain that to you. Your voice can help them DO BETTER for you in the future or other women in your position.

I want to discuss this last thought a little more in depth. From a health care provider, as hard as I try, I may not recognize when the patient needs more from me. Communication is KEY. I make sure to say this at every first appointment. If we can communicate appropriately, I will be able to in turn, provide you with the care you are looking for. If you really like your doctor and the vibe is good but they had an "off" day explaining things or something else was bothering you, please address it to them then and there or next time. This does not include your last bill, insurance, or why you were charged for X,Y,Z that is for a different person in the office. What you need to talk to the doctor about is your health concerns. If they are the right match for you, they will understand this and make sure to give you that time. Health Advocacy can be a two way street if the doctor is in your corner. The doctor needs to know how to communicate and show concern and compassion with you and you need to know how to communicate what you are wanting out of your time with them.

As a alternative health care provider, sometimes I am that patient's last resort. That is the time that I hear about all of their bouncing around to different specialist, being ignored, told its in their head, or probably just anxiety. It hurts my heart when I see this. I will share more in the posts to follow. If you have a story you feel comfortable sharing with me about an experience, I am hear to listen. Other women may need to hear your story as well.

-Dr. Ariel Blackburn

Chiropractic Physician



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