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Handbook for Mortals : Talking With Your Doctor

Situations: "The useful conversation"

Doctor: How are you doing?
Patient: I 'm glad to see you. I have some questions about my breathing getting more difficult. Won't you have a seat?
Doctor: How are you doing?
Patient: Pretty good, but I really want to talk about what I should expect if my cancer keeps spreading. How much time do you have for me today?
Doctor: How are you doing?
Patient: Not so good today. The nausea's worse, although my breathing is a bit better.

The conversations above map out useful ways to talk to your doctor. First, consider that what sounds like a variation on "hello" may be a real question and answer it accordingly. It may feel awkward or impolite, but it will get your point across. Second, offer an answer that suggests there is more to come. In a hospital or home setting, you can even combine this with a little old-fashioned hospitality that will encourage the doctor to hear you out. Finally, ask a question to gauge whether your expectations of a lengthy conversation are realistic. This is very important to do if you have scheduled a "routine" or "follow-up" appointment, but you want to discuss a new problem or an especially troubling issue.

Even if the doctor doesn't have time to sit for a long conversation, you have put him on notice that you expect to talk further. If he offers to return to your hospital room later, ask: "When should I expect you back? " If you are at his office, and you have the time and energy, you can offer to wait. If that is not a good option, ask: "What should I say to let the nurse or receptionist know that I need more time with you next visit?"

To learn more about the book "Handbook for Mortals" click here.