Helping professionals help us

This blog post was originally written on behalf of Reach Out for the 17 March 2013 edition of the Sunday Business Post

Reaching out for help for the first time can be a big step. However, there are some things you can do to ensure you’re getting the help that’s right for you.

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Know your medical history

When you see a health professional for the first time, they will typically ask you questions about your health and medical background, such as:

  • Are you on any medications or herbal treatments?
  • Are you taking any supplements?
  • Do you smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs? Have you in the past?
  • Do you have any allergies, or reactions to specific medications?

Health professionals ask these questions to better understand your situation so they can provide you with the best help. It can also be helpful to write down specific things you would like to bring up with the healthcare professional, or things you have been experiencing lately. This allows you to keep the discussion with them focused, ensuring whatever issues you want to discuss are addressed.

Be open and honest

Sometimes there will be things health professionals need to know, which you might find embarrassing or uncomfortable. It’s important to try and answer these questions honestly, so that they can provide you with the best treatment.

Talking openly about your lifestyle, health, or medical condition will make it easier for them to give you the best help. Do not leave things out, or make things sound differently than they actually are. If you’re unsure why they’re asking you a particular question, do not hesitate to ask them why that information is important. If you’re concerned about your rights to confidentiality, ask them whether they need to either record this information on a permanent record or inform anybody else.

If you don’t understand what the doctor is saying, ask them to explain it again, or in a different way. They may not have realised that they had not completely explained something, or in the best way. It can be useful to repeat back to them what they have said, or ask for resources where you can read more about your health concern. Remember, they are there to help you find the best solution, so they will want to answer your questions.

Take your time

If you need to make a decision in terms of treatment, take your time to think your options over. If it helps, talk to your friends or your family, or do a bit of research. Sometimes you might need to talk to your doctor or health practitioner again to get a clearer picture or ask the questions you had not thought of first time round. Also, never be afraid to get a second opinion.

Take notice of any side effects

If you’re given a prescription for medication, be sure to ask about possible side effects. If you’re taking psychiatric medication, it is likely there will be some side effects and it is important to talk to your doctor about these. If you do experience undesirable side effects, or things that you hadn’t expected, do contact your GP or psychiatrist. Keep a note of anything you notice.

Express your concerns

If you’re not happy with your healthcare professional, talk to them about it, and remember that you can always change to a different doctor/health provider if you are not comfortable.

Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.

Help the Professionals Who Can Help You
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