Sunday, March 16, 2008

We didn't all go to medical school

I teach, so I am used to telling people something and then they write it down in a notebook. Sometimes I even write what I want them to know on a chalkboard so that they can see what is important to write down. This way they know what I just told them. They can look back at their notes to se what I said - especially if it was important information.

So I hate when I go to the doctor's office and they tell you to take two of these three times a day on even days only and put this cream on your elbow for 10 days on and 5 days off and this other ointment on your knee twice a day for 3 days with 7 days off. I walk out confused and wondering what the heck I am supposed to do with my packages from CVS. Usually the pharmacist can decipher the doctor's heiroglyphice from the RX sheet, but there have been times I had to ask again or call the office and confirm.

My mom is not good at being assertive. She is a product of her culture and her era. She has gone to the pharmacy and come home with meds she didn't think she needed and meds she didn't even know what they were for.

I wish doctors approached their jobs as if they were a teacher - teaching the patient like a student of their own health. Explain or better yet instruct the patient as to what medication to use when and where and have them write it down so they know what they are doing and using the meds right.

I also remember being in the hospital after my first c-section and someone (a nurse) asked me what did I want for pain. I do not know what the names of any pain medication are - I am a teacher, not a doctor, pharmacist or nurse. So my answer was, "I don't know." So I got nothing. I sat writhing in pain - crying for 4 days with no medication at all. It was horrible. But I didn't know any better - this was my first hospitalization ever. Why would a worker in the medical field think everyone knows all the jargon or vocabulary of their field? I don't call my students' parents and drop slang like CST, M-team, jigsaw, aural participation, dbq, curricular objective, xyz pdq, et cetera and assume they know what I am talking about.

My advice to anyone going to a doctor or hospital: treat it like school. Take pen and paper. Write it all down - especially any directions or instructions about your care or health. Ask questions - stand up and be an advocate for yourself. Get what you need and don't be afraid to say, "Can you please tell me what you are talking about?"

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