How truly proactive are you when it comes to your health?
I don’t mean your diet or your day-to-day routine. I’m talking about when unexpected symptoms send you to the doctor’s office. Are you familiar with your primary care doctor’s education, specialty, and bedside manner? Do you know what to expect, and would you trust their recommendations?
These are big questions to ask yourself. It’s important to know you have the power to align yourself with the right practice before you’re in the situation of trusting a physician to guide you through an unforeseen diagnosis.
We all know the steps it takes to be healthy. Pursuing an ideal daily routine of eating enough vegetables, drinking eight recommended glasses of water, and maintaining a regular exercise schedule is what we strive for. Although not everyone follows these guidelines, we all were universally taught how to stay healthy at home. But what happens when we get sick?
Preparing to get sick isn’t the first thing on our to-do list as we surface into our adult lives. School teaches us nutrition and the basics in health class of “an apple a day” to keep us away from the doctor, but they don’t prepare us for when we actually have to face the medical office. Whether it’s a simple cold or preventive questions pertaining to our family history, to autoimmune issues, high blood pressure, low thyroid lab results, or acid reflux symptoms, no one prepares for these scenarios.
It can be so easy to forget how in-control we are of our healthcare once we step into the doctor’s office, not through any fault of our own, but because we haven’t had the conversation – or thought to ask the important questions – until we don’t feel good and we’re sitting on the exam table feeling helpless.
Dive into your primary care doctor’s educational degree
We’re automatically programmed to assume the most educated means the best. Your doctor’s office may be paved with proudly-earned framed certificates, but understanding their residencies, board certificates, physician’s certifications, thesis, and study participation can be overwhelming. However, remember that incredible achievements should be recognized collectively, big and small – and not just on paper.
As you start to dive into your doctor’s background and review their educational experience, keep this checklist on hand to stay focused and authentic to your medical needs:
Identify your family doctor’s area of expertise in their educational background.
Align their expertise with your family medical history or current health concerns.
Ask questions and form a comfortable foundation of communication between your primary care physicians. This is important when it comes to trusting their recommendations of medications and other specialists in your network.
Get familiar with the on-call doctor or nurse practitioner in case your doctor is unavailable for a last-minute appointment.
Recognize that your practice nurses are very knowledgeable in the groundwork to the practice. Take a moment in your process to also speak to them and explain your concerns, ask questions, and rely on their insight.
Lastly, and most importantly, know that you can change to a different doctor in your network at any time. It’s a great idea to do research when switching physicians or your insurance changes to a new network of doctors. However, always make your own decisions and trust your instincts by asking your own questions. All physicians who are current or accepting new patients have “Meet and Greet” interview appointments that can be set up for you to ask your questions and address your concerns.
Studies have shown the more educated we are as a society, the better the health and longevity of our communities. While it’s important to have a highly-educated physician, don’t forget to maintain the confidence to form a personalized foundation of trust in order to create a well-rounded health plan that you truly deserve!
Shawna Sabedra is a freelance writer and editorial assistant