The other day I went to a doctor’s office for a semi-annual visit. I left feeling like the visit had gone sour at some point. I wasn’t sure when it did at first, but I do remember the feeling that the doctor herself gave me.
It was almost as if she was closed off and standoffish. This was the first time I had ever felt like that with her so where did I go wrong?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe I was putting too much emphasis on her emotions and how our visit concluded. So then I started to look at my behavior during the visit. And had an “Ah-ha” moment.
We’ll get to that in a moment.
We have all been there before. The moment when you are in the examination room waiting on your doctor, quite possibly in a very thin clothed gown, wondering if things internally are going well or not. You feel vulnerable and literally exposed when you hear the knock on the door and see your doctor.
It can be very nerve racking in these circumstances. Although many healthcare workers do have training in bedside manner, trust and believe me that they are just as uncomfortable at times. Which is why building trust with any healthcare professional is important.
Why should I build trust with my doctor?
Building trust with your doctor is essential to your health. If you are unable to trust your healthcare professional, then you will not be able to be honest about what your symptoms are or the things that are affecting your everyday life and relationships.
This could in turn cause a doctor to misdiagnose you and lead to the implementation of the wrong course of treatment. Wasting precious time and energy can be detrimental for your health. We all know that early treatment of most diseases can effectively diffuse any hindrance to your everyday life. Early intervention of cancer increases the survival rate regardless of the type, therefore being forthright with your doctor is critical.
Below are 7 easy ways for you to build trust with your healthcare worker.
1. Come in with an open mind
Before you come into the office, the office staff has already had an early morning meeting with your doctor to discuss the patients that he/she will be seeing that day. Aside from your chart, your doctor does not know anything about you. He/she does not know what you look like, or who you are as a person.
So what makes you think they are not nervous about meeting with you? The fact that they do this for a living? Pfff. Most doctors find themselves not knowing what type of patient they are going to be working with. Especially if you are going in for an evaluation that may cause some emotional distress- like a likelihood of cancer, a STD, thyroid problems that may cause anxiety and depression, or psychiatric treatment.
I hope that in writing this that you understand that you are not alone when you feel the emotions that you do. The healthcare worker is just as nervous about meeting you as you are about meeting them in your most vulnerable moment. Take slow deep breaths and allow yourself to relax and become receptive.
2. Establish Rapport
Most doctors got into the medical business because they genuinely enjoy helping others. They want to see you get better, not worse.
Knowing this allows you to begin a trusting relationship with your doctor. While they are there to provide a service, you are also there because you are in need of them. Establishing rapport allows you to connect with your doctor to get the best possible outcome.
Get to know your doctor. Observe the type of personality he/she has. Are they open and friendly? Are they welcoming? Most importantly do they make you feel safe enough for you to share your innermost concerns? If some of these questions are answered negatively, then you should reconsider why you are seeing this professional and search for other options
3. Be Honest
Let’s back up a bit.
When you initially go to your doctor’s office, you will more than likely be handed a form from the front office staff. This form will more than likely have questions regarding the symptoms that you have, whether you were referred by your primary care physician or hospital, your personal medical history, and what your family medical history entails.
When filling out this form, be sure to be as detailed as you possibly can. Doing so can help the doctor narrow down your diagnosis and treatment. If you knowingly leave something out, you run the risk of complications. This is especially true with any previous diagnosis that you may have had, and with current medications.
If you do not disclose the complete list of medications that you take, your doctor could accidentally order a medication for you that counters or reacts badly in your system. So now you are not treated correctly for the main problem you came to the office with, but now you have added another situation that could have easily been avoided.
After you and your doctor have a conversation, they will perform a physical exam. During this time, they may ask you questions, order lab work, or require you to go for further testing.
This is where it is important to actively listen to what they are saying. Building trust with your doctor goes both ways. You not only need to trust them, but they need to trust YOU to follow the course of treatment to the letter in order to get you to your optimal health.
Actively engage with your doctor as well. Ask them how long they have been specializing in their field and if they enjoy their work. When you do so, you can evaluate the type of individual they are, and how comfortable you feel around them- all vital in a doctor/patient relationship, where sensitive information is being discussed.
No one likes to feel vulnerable nowadays, which may be why more and more people are holding off on going to the doctors for necessary care. Actively listening and engaging in effective communication can help with building trust between you and the healthcare professional.
5. Share some of your personal life
Now that you and your doctor have started to become familiar with each other, it’s time to continue to foster the relationship.
When you feel comfortable, dare to venture outside the normal medical talk. Speak about your support system at home, and let your doctor know if you don’t have any. Most people do not realize how important it is to have a support system in place.
Having support during your healing process makes a huge impact on your mental health and general well being. From the beginning of time our mere survival as a species has counted on our ability to unite in groups against much stronger and faster animals. Being a part of a group is something that we instinctively need.
We suffer spiritually once we are outcast from our society. Our physical beings follow in suit. And your doctor knows this.
Now I’m not saying to spend a whole office visit talking about everything in your life and your family, but do make it known that you are well supported.
6. Do what you say you will do
Remember when I said that my behavior may have led to my healthcare provider being a little standoffish? Well, here’s why.
I totally forgot to get lab work done back in January. I was wondering if maybe the office did not contact me to let me know there was pending lab work needing to be done, but ultimately it was my response that may have triggered the reaction that I received.
Doing what you say, or for the purpose of this article- following your plan of care will let your physician know that you are serious about your health and take their advice under serious consideration. Besides, if you don’t take your health seriously, who else will? This also lets the doctor know that you were actively listening and plan to continue on the path of optimal health.
It’s also worth mentioning here that not everyone will have the same cookie cutter cut out version of “optimal health.” Some injuries, disorders, and disabilities do not allow for the picture perfect person that you see on Instagram fit profiles. Be mindful of other people and their untold stories. You shouldn’t judge a person solely by their appearance.
7. Remember, they are human too
Just because a doctor is a doctor, or any healthcare professional is in the medical field, that does not give you free rein to talk to them in a manner that you would not like to be spoken to.
Yes, we get paid. That does not mean that we are free of debt. Some medical professionals have student loans that amount to more than what they earn because the loan climbs in interest yearly. If you take a closer look, you will see that the majority of medical professionals spend 80% of their time treating and caring for others, rather than taking time out for their mental health. This leads to a large amount of this work force being burnt out.
Which may be the reason why there is such a shortage in nurses and doctors.
COVID took a huge hit on the medical community. We were isolated from our family for their well being, and we were mandated to work long hours to take care of those who we watched deteriorate before our eyes.
The outcome of the ongoing pandemic in our society has been a lack of respect and trust toward others. I believe this is mainly due to us fighting for our very lives against a virus that wiped out a large sum of individuals. Medical professionals or not, we were all scared, overwhelmed with emotions, and hurt.
Those of us who are left are in mourning and healing. It’s time that we take a moment and realize that in order for any of this to work, we need to continue to be compassionate to others.
Take the time to get to know your doctor and their office staff. Truly get to know them. They will appreciate a patient that is caring enough to think outside their own health problems.
Finally, trust the process. It will be okay.
Most doctors come into the profession willing to serve the public the best way that they can. Some healthcare workers, when questioned, will even say that their profession is their life's work. The field that they chose to pursue, gave them a sense of purpose and strength. Most take pride in being a specialist in a field that sparked a fuel of curiosity.
Let your doctor or healthcare professional do what they do best by building a trusting relationship with them. Your health depends on it.
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Yaritza Ellison has been an nurse since 2010. She has been essential to the healing process of many and seeks to continue to do so. Her passion for mental health and self help literature has lead her to launch justyari.org, where she aspires to coach young ladies navigating through work-life balance.