Becoming Your Own Advocate Takes Practice, but It’s Worth It

Becoming Your Own Advocate Takes Practice, but It’s Worth It

I recently sent my neurologist a thank-you card. A friend of mine was incredulous and truly baffled at my gesture.

“Why would you thank your doctor?” she asked.

Why wouldn’t I? I am thankful for my doctor’s wisdom and also her heart. She is an elusive hybrid of extreme intelligence and kindness. We have developed a healthy working relationship based on mutual regard, integrity, and respect. This connection never ceases to baffle others. One would think the existence of such a rapport was extinct.

While not extinct, perhaps it is endangered.

Patients have become quasi-arbiters of their care. The internet has given way to an informed patient seeking confluence with their physician. While good in theory, our medical model does not always support this. Insurance or third-party payers reward five-minute visits through reimbursements. While I realize that this statement is a generality, money talks.

So, we must shout. We must find our voice.

We must become our own advocate. Advocating for ourselves means asking for what we need. We shed the skin of intimidation and come into our own through positive assertion. What our physician brings through learned knowledge and expertise, we balance through experience. No one knows you better than you.

Your doctor is a health consultant. Educate them. Arrive at your appointment prepared. Bring past medical records, test results, and any other pertinent information. Write down and ask questions. What are your main concerns? There are no stupid questions!

Before your appointment, establish concise goals. What do you want from this appointment? What are you hoping to achieve?

Seeking medical help for anything can be daunting. When it is multiple sclerosis, it can be overwhelming. Bring a supportive friend or family member. I have brought my mother or husband to my medical appointments — their presence helped me to overcome my passivity.

Advocating takes practice, so take heart. You are not alone. I encourage you to become familiar with every aspect of your care. Seek clarity about your insurance benefits, get acquainted with your healthcare facility, and get to know your doctors. Knowledge is power. Feeling empowered elicits confidence and hope.

Congratulations on becoming your own advocate.

***

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.
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Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.
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