You and Your Health Care Provider
It is very important to create and maintain good communication with your doctor/nurse. For your doctor/nurse to determine the best treatments for your cancer, he or she must know many things about you and your life. Expressing your fears and asking questions (even if you think it is a "stupid question") can result in the development of a treatment plan that will satisfy both of you.
Many doctors/nurses, and people receiving treatments, are on a tight schedule. One way to get more from your visit with your doctor/nurse is by taking "P.A.R.T".
P.A.R.T. stands for:
- Take Action
Although this section focuses on cancer, the P.A.R.T. exercise can be used for any medical issue including depression, smoking, or alcohol issues and can apply to any visit with your doctor/nurse.
Prior to your appointment (either in-person or telephone appointment) with your doctor/nurse, prepare an agenda that highlights the reasons for the visit. Write down a list of your questions and concerns so you can remember them. It is perfectly fine to say something like: "I am worried about how this illness will affect my family" or "This scares me because it is like what my sister experienced when she took this medication."
Between doctor appointments, take notes about your symptoms or concerns so you can give your doctor/nurse a detailed history of the problem. If you have a new symptom, be sure to record it. Make a note about when it began, how long it lasts, how often it occurs, where it is located on your body, what makes it better, or worse, whether you have made any changes to your diet, medications, or exercise, and so on.
Prior to your doctor appointment, mark the items on your list that you feel are most important to discuss during the appointment. At the beginning of the appointment, tell your doctor/nurse your concerns, perhaps show him/her your list, and point out your priorities. If you wait until the end of your appointment to discuss the items on the list, there may not be enough time. When you tell your doctor/nurse your thoughts, feelings, and fears, be as open as possible.
Asking questions is a very important part of improving communication with your doctor/nurse. Be sure to ask about your follow-up appointment. Also, make sure that you understand your care at home. When your doctor/nurse answers your questions, take notes and/or bring a friend or relative to listen and remember your doctor's advice.
For questions related to a diagnosis, you might want to ask: "What is wrong? What is the cause? How can I prevent future occurrences?" For questions related to treatment, you might want to ask, "What changes in my lifestyle do I need to make? What are the side effects, risks, and benefits of medication? What can I expect from treatment?"
Repeat the important points back to your doctor/nurse. Repeating the important points ensures that you understand the information and gives your doctor/nurse a chance to correct any misunderstandings. If you are confused or unsure about something, tell the doctor/nurse that you would like it restated.
Before the end of the appointment, make sure you understand what to do next. Ask your doctor/nurse to write down instructions or give you other written information (such as a pamphlet, book, or videotape about the illness or new treatment). If you think that you cannot or will not follow the doctor's instructions, be sure to let him or her know. You might want to say something like: "Last time I took the medication, it made me so sleepy I really do not want to take it again. Is there another medicine I can take instead?"
Once you understand the instructions, follow them very carefully. Call your doctor/nurse if you have concerns or want to make any changes. If your doctor/nurse knows why you cannot or will not follow the instructions, he or she may be able to make some changes to accommodate your needs.