Medical care in this day and age can be very complicated, and keeping track of the details of your health care is no small task. Aside from documenting all aspects of your health care, asking questions is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to understanding what’s going on.
There Are No Dumb Questions
You’ve probably heard it before, but we’ll say it again: there are no dumb questions, especially in terms of your health and medical care.
If you are meeting with a doctor or other medical professional and there’s something that you don’t understand, it’s in your best interest to ask clarifying questions. Most medical providers would prefer that you ask to have something explained again so that you understand it, rather than walking away from a visit feeling confused.
Many providers use medical jargon and abbreviations that often don’t make sense to the average layperson; in fact, they may use such terminology without even thinking. A quick reminder that they’re using words that you’re unfamiliar with will help them to slow down and choose language that’s clearer.
Framing Your Questions
There are simple ways to ask for clarification during a conversation with your provider. Here are some ways to frame your questions:
“I’m not quite understanding what you’re saying; can you try explaining it another way?”
“You used several terms that I’m not familiar with; can you please explain what _________________ and ________________ mean?”
“I’m feeling confused. Can you please help make this clearer?”
“Could you write those options down? It would help me to see them on paper.”
You Have The Right To Understand
When it comes to your medical care---or the medical care of a loved one---you have the right to understand your medications, diagnoses, treatments, and referrals, as well as any options that are open to you.
In emotionally charged situations, you may have difficulty processing information, especially if your provider is giving you difficult news. If you have a new diagnosis (e.g.: cancer or another disease), asking clarifying questions is both smart and expected.
You have the right to understand what you're being told; if your provider is choosing language that you’re having a hard time grasping, ask him or her to reframe it in another way. You’ll benefit from having a more solid understanding of your situation, and your health care will be more satisfying as a result.
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC is the Chief Nursing Officer of Mi Casa Home Health Care. Keith has been a nurse since 1996, and has focused the majority of his nursing career on home health, hospice, case management, and public health. He is a well-known nurse career coach, nurse blogger, freelance writer, speaker, and podcaster. Keith lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.