N is for Nuance – #AtoZChallenge
For the letter N in today’s post, the topic is going to be nuances and how they can appear where you least expect them. According to Merriam-Webster, nuance is defined “as a subtle distinction or variation” and it goes on to explain that it can also refer to a “sensibility to, awareness of, or ability to express delicate shadings (as of meaning, feeling, or value)”.
When you are ill you and your provider may need to have some very serious discussions and this can apply to a one-time relatively minor illness as well as to someone who is chronically ill who may have an entire team of specialists or even some sub-specialists.Even if you have what may seem a simple bacterial infection that would likely be treated very well with an antibiotic you and your provider should be having a discussion about the potential side effects or interactions of the medication on either your body or any other medications you may be on. While this may seem that it should be commonplace, there are still plenty of people who are content to simply have the doctor tell them what to do and they do it.
The time for patients to sit idly by and simply follow directions is long gone. In medicine today it is absolutely imperative that proper communication takes place. This is especially true for those who may be chronically ill with multiple illnesses or those who see multiple providers in order to ensure continuity of care and the best possible outcomes. Nuances occur every day in our lives, both in our speech and in terms of how our bodies may react to treatment regimens.
If we simply follow directions and don’t communicate well it could be easy for a practitioner to potentially miss a symptom that may important that you had no clue was important but have noticed for quite some time though you simply dismissed it as inconsequential. I’ve both seen and heard of patients dismissing symptoms as “just getting older” when in fact they were indicative of other underlying problems or conditions.
A well-trained provider should know the proper questions to ask to elicit the proper responses during an examination or a patient history. However, it would be unfair of patients to put this burden strictly on the practitioners. Physicians are being expected to accomplish more items, be more accurate in their patient-centered activities, and to do so in less and less time than ever before.
As a responsible partner in your own healthcare team, the burden not only falls on you to take a more active role in your healthcare, but this is a challenge you should be eager to undertake as it leads to better overall care for you, the patient. By participating in your care directly and doing even a little bit of efficient preparation you can ensure that you receive more accurate diagnoses and treatments, in a shorter time frame as you will know the basics of what needs to be discussed.
Each and every patient should prepare a list prior to an appointment, which can be as simple or as elaborate as you so desire. A list of items scribbled (legibly) on a piece of notebook paper is sufficient. I recommend starting with your name at the top, followed immediately by any allergies to medications as a reminder for the doctor. Below that you can list whatever prescriptions you may need refills on. Then you can individually list items that need to be addressed or questions that you may have. In this area, you should also include any symptoms you may be feeling despite whether you think they are pertinent or not.
You aren’t expected to be able to discern what is or is not diagnostically pertinent. However, if you don’t mention it then the physician cannot evaluate the information in its entirety to even attempt to make a proper diagnosis, nor should they be expected to treat you appropriately with less than complete information. While some topics may be sensitive or difficult to talk about, you can’t be shy. You have to have the ability to speak up and directly address something for the provider to ascertain its importance in the diagnostic and therapeutic decisions regarding your care.
In a similar vein when someone in the healthcare field asks you how you are doing, you are doing yourself a general disservice if you downplay how much pain you are in, how bad a symptom is, or how it may be otherwise affecting you and your immediate family. Subtle hints may often be missed and if you’re not explicit and honest you cannot expect your provider to see through the mask you put on to appear strong and capable of handling a situation when, in fact, you may feel as if the matter is overwhelming and that you can’t even keep your head above water.
If I were to sum up the point of this I would say take control of your own healthcare, do your proper research, and prepare to be an active member of your own personal healthcare team while practicing open, honest, and effective communication. You must also expect these traits from your providers and you can start things off quite well by exhibiting these things yourself and leading by example. Don’t rely on nuance or jargon to convey your meaning. Speak in clear and concise terms to convey your meaning.
Do you have a story to share? How do you participate in your own healthcare?