I posted a blog on Huffington Post today, “Mammogram Assault – It Doesn’t Have to Happen to You” because it doesn’t. Many of the blogs on this site are about what to say when things aren’t right. When it comes to your health or that of someone you love, if you don’t stand up and reject poor service not only do you suffer but so do patients who come after you.
My life has been saved by wonderful doctors. And I’ve experienced many medical exams conducted by the most accomplished of people concerned for my health. But last week was one of those exceptions when little if any efforts were made to make a routine mammogram other than an emotional and painful experience.
As I mentioned in the blog, when someone is not doing his or her job, perhaps chatting away to others while you’re lying on a gurney in an emergency room or if you’re undergoing a test with a technician who expresses no humanity, it’s time to say something. Anyone who is that indifferent is likely not good at what they do.
There are certain basic considerations that should be shown to any patient undergoing a test. What they’re about to experience should be explained. They should be given the opportunity to share information that could be important to ensuring their comfort and accuracy of the testing. If pain is expected, the patient should be apprised of how much and what he or she can do if it becomes too much. These are simple guidelines. It doesn’t hurt to couple them with sensitivity to the patient’s concerns.
“Before we begin I need to share a couple of things with you that you’ll want to know” is one way of introducing your concerns whether they are solicited or not. “I will need to sit down for a minute or take a break during the test if the pain is intense” or “If there is a way to break this up into parts or pace it so that I’m not distressed, that would be very helpful.”
These are all very courteous ways to share with someone that you are a person who knows yourself well enough to anticipate issues that might arise. You could elicit their advice: “What do you suggest I do if I’m feeling faint?”
Don’t go into medical situations with the idea that something is about to be done TO you without your input. Some testing involves pain. That’s to be expected. But the best technicians, doctors and nurses will apprise you of that, keep in touch with you during the procedure, and do what they can to make you as comfortable as possible. If that isn’t happening, then you should let whoever can fix the problem know that you expect better.
My father used to say, “If you have your health, you can do anything.” So why let someone having a bad day or who is poorly trained mess with that? You don’t have to. Next time there is any hint of problems, speak up. Be your own health advocate. You’ll be healthier and happier for it.