Ask-A-Nurse: Communicating with healthcare providers

Posted on: January 25th, 2011 by sdavis 1 Comment

Cheryl Hennings, R.N.

Cheryl Hennings is an R.N. and the Clinical Director of CarePro Home Health and Home Infusion, with more than 15 years of nursing experience under her belt. This past year, she spoke at the Celebration of Caregivers conference in Cedar Rapids, where she gave key points to consider for how to effectively communicate with healthcare providers. Here’s what she had to say.

When it comes to the health of your loved ones, you probably have a lot of questions and getting the answers might be like finding a needle in a haystack. The good news is, the answers are all out there, and with a few pointers and planning, your mind can be put at ease.

When it comes to figuring out what to ask, the first thing to consider is the time you have with your physician to discuss your options. While it might feel like you have enough questions to fill an entire day, your physician unfortunately won’t have that kind of time. You will most likely have to pay for another visit if you go over your allotted time. Make up a list of questions first, and prioritize them on a need-to-know basis.

Before your visit with your loved one’s physician, do your homework: explore your healthcare options and bring any information you would like to discuss with you to your appointment. Consider bringing a family member or companion to your visit to take notes for you, so that you can concentrate on your questions. If this isn’t an option for you, ask if you can bring a tape recorder, so you can review your doctor’s responses later.

Providing your doctor with a written summary of your loved one’s state of health can not only save time, but many reveal some areas to explore in greater detail. It would be helpful if this summary included: medical records, a family history, itemization of major illnesses, medications, and timing and severity of troublesome symptoms.

Sometimes, it can feel like doctors speak a different language. If you’re having trouble understanding your loved one’s condition or treatment, say so. Repeat to the doctor what you thought you just heard, and then have him or her provide deeper explanations. Rephrase your question if you don’t think you’re getting the answer you need. Before you leave, ask how you can learn more. Physicians will be able to refer you to more resources, or you can ask for pamphlets, books or videotapes.

Ultimately, don’t be shy about sharing your concerns and asking questions. Honesty is always the best policy, and there are plenty of answers out there for your healthcare needs. But you won’t know them until you ask!

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