A Word on Responsibility
To truly Own It and advocate for your medical care you have to accept responsibility. In my view, accepting responsibility is one of the hardest things for anyone to do. It is one thing to be responsible for your medical care when everything is going well. However, when you are faced with medical challenges, it can be hard to take responsibility. You may be more tired than normal, you may not like the way a medication makes you feel, you may be questing why you must go through hard times in your life. If you are going through medical challenges the best thing you can do is take responsibility. When you take responsibility for your medical care, you will be able to navigate the medical world with confidence. In this post we are going to explore a few ways you can start to take more responsibility for your medical care and Own It.
Step 1: Be on Time
Of all the steps of becoming your own best medical advocate, one of the most important is being on time for your medical appointments. When you are scheduled for a medical appointment, there are others who may be scheduled for appointments after your scheduled time. If you are late you may have to wait longer to see your doctor. Being late may also lead to you being more frustrated at yourself and this is not beneficial to your physical health or mental health. So, if you are scheduled for a medical appointment, be on time. If you are running late, let your doctor know so they can plan accordingly.
Step 2: Know Your Allergies
While we are on the topic of self-advocacy it is important that we consider the importance of allergies, specifically medical allergies. If you are allergic to latex or specific medications it is important that you tell your doctors. Even if you are in a medical setting that you are familiar with still make your allergies known to your medical team. If you are in the outpatient setting you may be given a list of what is in your electronic medical record file, or this information may be in print form. Either way, make sure to take time to carefully look over this information and make any changes that need to be made.
If you are in the emergency room, it is even more important to make your medical allergies known. In the emergency room, there is an added level of urgency. If you are allergic to an antibiotic and your medical team in the emergency room does not know this, you may be given that medication by accident. After this occurs, you may experience a wide variety of side effects (each at a different level of severity). If you are in the emergency room and not able to communicate with the medical team, make sure someone is with you who can do this for you (preferably a friend or close family member).
In summary, know your medical allergies, tell your medical teams about these allergies and make sure those close to you know these allergies in the event you are not able to speak for yourself.
Step 3 Know your Medications
When it comes to knowing about the medications you take, it can become overwhelming to keep track. Each medication you take may be taken on different days, times, and variances. If you take multiple medications, or if you only take one, it is important to know about your medication. Specifically, it is important to know how much you take, when you take the medication and why you take the medication. Is also smart to know what can happen if you don’t take the medications or skip a dose. In my experiences this information is something I learned from my doctors. If your doctors are not talking to you about the medication you take, you shouldn’t wait on them to have the conversation. After all, this is your medical care! So, speak up and get this information. After you get this information write it down.
Step 4: Write it Out/ Take Notes
In an ever-increasing digital age, taking hand notes has fallen out of style. Even if you aren’t one to write things down, you now is a great time to start this habit. If you have access to a computer and printer, I recommend making a graph of each medication you take and important information about each medication. I would also encourage you to take notes when you visit your doctor. Writing notes is important because it can help you remember key information from your appointment after you leave. After you have taken notes, make sure that you make a copy of these notes and print it out for your reccords.
Step 5: Be Organized
When it comes to navigating the medical world with confidence, it is important that you be organized. If you are already organized, that is great. If you have never had an organization system for your medical care, now is a great time to start. In my own experiences I have found that creating a medical binder is a great tool to help you stay organized. In this binder you can keep notes from your doctor appointments, copies of standing (current) lab work orders, a list of medications you take, and so much more. When creating this binder, use the organizer tabs and other organization tools to personalize the binder for your exact needs.
After you complete your medical binder, be sure to take this binder with you to your medical appointments. When you do this, you will be a step ahead of everyone else because yo will have quick access to important information if you should need it durring your medical appointment. Doing this is especially important when you are going to a new doctor who has limited information about your medical history. Even if you never use the binder in your medical appointments, yo will be able to sleep good at night knowing that you know where key medical information is if you ever need it.
Step 6: Speak Up
When it comes to owning your medical care, it is important that you use your voice. I know this may seem obvious, but I am consistently surprised at how many people show up to their medical appointments and never actually speak up. These people just sit around and pretend that they are powerless. The reality is that we all have personal agency, some just choose to use it and others don’t. When we don’t use our voice, we relinquish our personal agency and allow others to speak for us. When we don’t use our voice, we become passive in our medical care. Instead of this, choose to take part in your own medical care. If you have questions, ask them. If you have concerns, make them known. You have a voice and how you use that voice to advocate for yourself matters. At the most basic level, using your voice will mean the difference between being a consumer of medical care and being an active participant in your medical care. When we are actively involved in our medical care, we choose to Own It and take responsibility for the parts of our life we can control. The way I see it life is 10% what happens to us and 99% how we react. So, choose to speak up and Own It.
The Big Idea: To be your own best advocate for your medial care, you need to take responsibility. This starts by recognizing that you have an opportunity to be actively involved in your medical care. When we choose to stay on the sideline of life, we end up allowing others to speak for us. This may be good for a short time but active passivity is not a long term solution to the medical challenges you are experiencing.
“Active passivity is not a long term solution to your medical challenges. To truly own it you must take personal responsibility for what you can control, yourself.”=