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Uncomfortable at the Doctor's Office? Speak Up!

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Breast Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

Have you ever felt intimidated, embarrassed, or frustrated during a doctor’s appointment?

Occasionally, most of us have been uncomfortable. Granted, there’s not much dignity in seeking medical care. But some experiences are more uncomfortable than they should be. And sometimes discomfort is more the rule than the exception.

For example, we might be intimidated by a physician who uses words or concepts we don’t understand. We're afraid to interrupt or ask for clarification.

Or we might be embarrassed, because the gown they give us to cover our bigger-than-we-wish-they-were-backsides just won’t wrap all the way around.

Then, sometimes we are frustrated, because we are forced to wait too long for our appointments, and no reasonable or plausible explanation is made. We just wait and wait.

You can probably think of other ways you’ve felt uncomfortable, too.

My long-time friend Roberta, a well-endowed woman with a preliminary diagnosis of breast cancer, had an appointment with a surgeon. Of course, she was upset and nervous before she ever got to the appointment. Then she was given a gown to put on which was much too small. Further, to make it worse, the surgeon walked into the exam room and announced, “Hi! I’m the boob man!” Roberta was embarrassed, disturbed and on the defensive. It was difficult for her to focus on the information she knew she needed.

Francine was annoyed when her doctor used words she couldn’t understand. He told her that her symptoms were “idiopathic." Francine felt insulted because she thought the doctor had called her a name.

Last Fall, an eye specialist I needed to see kept me waiting for almost 2-1/2 hours. You might wonder why I even waited. The reason is because it took me three months to get the appointment.

So what can we patients do to improve these kinds of situations?

Speak up! Stick up for ourselves! If we don’t, who else will?

Roberta told the surgeon to address her more respectfully, then asked that next time she be provided a larger gown. Francine summoned the courage to ask her doctor to define idiopathic. She learned it simply meant they had no explanation for her symptoms. The eye specialist, who is an acquaintance of mine outside of work, got an earful. Later I sent him an email which outlined my expectations for subsequent appointments. My follow up "only" required a 45-minute wait.

Our doctors are service providers. We are their customers, and as such, we deserve their respect. Too often we feel invisible, as if our time, opinions and needs are irrelevant or unimportant. If we continue to passively accept that attitude, it will never improve.

If you find yourself in an uncomfortable position while visiting your doctor’s office, then say something. Be respectful, of course. Have a discussion, not a confrontation. But be definite. Explain your point of view, and what you would like them to do to improve the situation.

And if they are unwilling? Then it’s time to find a new provider.

Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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