I'm about to share a personal story with you. It might seem like a little too much information, but I'm doing so for an important reason. Today's post is about the importance of using your voice with anyone giving you medical attention (doctor, nurse, technician, etc) and standing up for yourself.
I recently have been experiencing abnormal cyclical pelvic pain. Knowing I needed a requisition for imaging and labs (blood work), I made an appointment with a medical doctor (MD). She was extremely nice, asked all the "red flag" questions and agreed that imaging would be necessary.
One quick thing I will bring up though is how Ontario's medical system - although effective at screening for emergencies - was disappointing. As a naturopathic doctor (ND) I've become accustomed to spending great amounts of time with my patients. And when it comes to female reproductive health my screening goes beyond the basics and into a full history with details on everything including family history, age of menarche (first period), history of symptoms, and flow assessment (colour, clotting, volume) and so much more. My time in this particular visit was limited. I felt like I kept cutting the MD off because I had additional information that I thought she would find helpful.
I guess it's a moot point because having the imaging and testing done was the most important thing to me. I just found it was really difficult to be heard in such a short amount of time. Where this would be more troubling for me is if I was counting on the MD for treatment. Depending on my results, I'll likely get stuck in a one-size-fits-all model, be prescribed hormone replacement (birth control pill) and that will be it (luckily I know I have so many other options!) unless a referral to gynaecologist/specialist is warranted.
Again, a moot point, I got what I needed and went and had both a pelvic and trans-vaginal ultrasound done. Upon doing the pelvic ultrasound the technician mentioned he could see a cyst. I told him another technician found something similar about a year ago but said it was just the remnants from a ruptured follicle (from ovulation). He said, no, that's not what this is. He continued to tell me that this is likely what's been causing my pain, and asked if I still wanted to do the trans-vaginal ultrasound.
Hold up right there. Red flag #1: I have no idea if this guy was a doctor. I'm almost certain he was only a technician. He has a requisition from an MD requesting both types of imaging be done and now he's asking me if I want to have one of them done - based on what he thinks is causing my pain? How many other people have been asked a similar question and have said "Oh, if you think that's what's going on, then maybe I should save myself the inconvenience and not go through with the trans-vaginal exam."? I was floored. So I stood my ground, "No, I'd like to have it done as well. I need to rule out other issues and pathologies that might also be going on."
Although he maintained professionalism during this next part of the exam, his communication was terrible. Again, lucky, being an ND and a previous gynaecological model for medical students, I've had a lot of experience with pelvic examinations and having to communicate direction and instructions.
I knew there was a problem when his initial attempt on placement of the ultrasound wand was way off. I thought, Okay, he's a technician who does this for a living. He must understand female anatomy and know how to troubleshoot in order to obtain the necessary images. So I offered direction and used anatomical description and direction to help him out. Red Flag #2: this guy doesn't know what "anterior" means... at all.
So as I'm describing how he needs to shift the position of the ultrasound wand, I realize he truly doesn't understand and now I'm very much uncomfortable and almost in pain, so I intervened, and changed the placement of the ultrasound wand myself.
Again I wondered, If this was anyone else on the table, would they have spoken up? How long would they have put up with this ... 'misdirection' before saying something? If I had been a teen, I probably wouldn't have said anything because you always think that grown-ups in the medical field know everything, Maybe that's how they do it? I don't know!
This isn't going to happen in every case, but there are lots of people in the medical field who have less experience, terrible communication skills and lack a good bedside manner. It's not everyone but it can happen anywhere.
My point is, no matter who is treating you or giving you medical attention, don't be afraid to use your voice. Speak up and stand up for yourself. If you want something, ask for it. If you feel pressured into a decision, ask about the risks and benefits of ALL available options. If something doesn't sit right in your gut, trust your judgement. And don't ever feel like you're a burden just because your doctor or technician is rushing you. That's them rushing - their issue - you pay for healthcare through your taxes, so make sure you're getting what you need.