As a locum tenens hospitalist, I have worked at hospitals across the US, from upscale suburbs to rural areas.
And during those positions, I have seen patients and their families struggle through the maze of the US healthcare system. It can be a challenge to know what to do, whom to ask, and how to get the best experience from hospitals.
Here are my 5 best tips on how to advocate for yourself and your loved ones when you are being treated in the hospital.
1. Communicate Openly
By far, the best thing you can do as your own advocate is to be honest. Express your concerns; share your fears.
You are an expert in your symptoms and conditions, and the physician is an expert in matching those symptoms to a diagnosis.
We need the full story to really serve you well. Learn more about how to help your doctor help you.
2. Ask Questions
Too many times, patients are almost afraid to ask questions, as if they’re bothering the doctor by asking them. If you don’t ask us, we won’t know what you want to know.
Sometimes, like any other professionals, doctors start to talk the “lingo,” and we may assume that you understand what we’re talking about.
If we’re over your head, let us know and we’ll make sure that we explain things until you understand. It’s that important.
3. Be Prepared
When the doctor comes to your hospital room, we have a limited amount of time to spend with you and your family.
Be ready for us.
If you can, write down your questions ahead of time. Have your paperwork and records ready if you want to share them with us.
Put them in priority order so that you are ensured you will have the time you need to discuss them. Lists are good.
4. Educate Yourself
There are so many resources readily available for patients these days.
Look for credible websites and research your symptoms and questions, both before and after speaking to your doctor. Often times the website of the medical facility at which you’re staying will offer links to credible resources to help you and will frequently have print materials available as well.
We appreciate educated patients, but don’t accept for fact everything you read online, as some of it isn’t credible.
Do research yourself and then ask us. Trust me, we want to answer your questions and make sure that you have all of the facts regarding your condition.
5. Check the Doctor’s Credentials
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking a physician how many similar procedures we’ve completed, how many patients we’ve treated, or what our success rates are.
As an informed patient, you need to know about yourself and your medical team. A confident physician will have no trouble providing the information you request.
Whether you’re dealing with a full-time hospitalist or locum tenens hospitalist, you owe it to yourself to be an active participant in your medical treatment plan. Remember, we’re here to serve you!