When I found out that my pregnancy was high risk, seemingly overnight, I went from a very healthy person who had never dealt with health care professionals, to having dozens of health care professionals in my life.
It seemed that nearly every doctor I met during my pregnancy had a poor bedside manner and seemed too rushed to spend much time talking with me, didn’t really seem to care if I fully understood what they were saying and gave me a death stare if I asked a question or for clarification. There were times I felt absolutely berated by doctors and couldn’t help but cry out of embarrassment and fear when I got into the comfort of my car.
I went through my pregnancy knowing just the bare minimum of information about my health and Ruby’s health because I was too petrified to ask questions or demand more time with the doctor.
When Ruby was born, I had gained more confidence in dealing with doctors, but I still felt apprehensive asserting myself or asking too many questions. There were times I’d leave the NICU and return to find doctors prodding at Ruby in her incubator. I would introduce myself and expect them to immediately tell me what they were doing to my child, however I was often met with blank stares and an attitude of, “You’re just the mom – you wouldn’t understand.” Luckily, Ruby had some amazing nurses who spent time explaining things to me in language that I could understand.
After spending the day with Ruby in the NICU, I’d come home and spend my nights in front of the computer researching her health conditions, trying to learn more so that I could ask intelligent and pertinent questions during rounds the next morning. I noticed that the more I learned, the more time and respect I got from the doctors.
When Ruby was released from the NICU, I was on my own when it came to dealing with the doctors. Some of them were very willing to sit with me and answer my questions. Some questioned me as if I were a criminal. And some were just plain rude, using medical terminology that I would never know unless I had attended the same prestigious university they had.
I learned that if I didn’t come to each appointment armed with a list of intelligent questions and lots of knowledge on the topics I wanted to discuss, that I would not receive any respect or time from the doctor. I also let go of my fear of the death stare and would not let the doctor leave the room until I felt he/she answered all of my questions to my satisfaction. And if a doctor wouldn’t do these things for us, I didn’t hesitate to fire him/her and find someone who would.
Unfortunately, I learned that I can’t count on most doctors to simply hand over the information that I want from them. Not only do I have to do health care research, I also have to set aside my own feelings of embarrassment and fear to push the doctor to spend time with me and answer all of my questions. It’s uncomfortable at first, but it’s a necessity for the well-being of my special needs child.
Remember: You and your child are consumers of health care. Your doctor needs to win your business – it is not a guarantee that you will return to him/her again. If you feel you are not receiving the treatment you need, don’t be afraid to find a new doctor who will meet your needs.
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