I’m not a doctor (nor a nurse or any other kind of medical professional for that matter), and until I started communicating with doctors regularly in my profession, I didn’t fully understand their role in the patient-doctor relationship – and thus, I didn’t fully understand my role and responsibilities in the patient-doctor relationship.
The more I learn from doctors, the more I come to believe in the old adage, “you can only be helped as much as you are willing to help yourself.” To help improve the patient-doctor relationship I’ve created a few rules that I try my hardest to adhere to – rules that work for incontinence along with any other medical condition. Over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss one rule at a time in depth.
The first rule – the granddaddy of all other rules for the patient-doctor relationship – is the rule of full disclosure. I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t tried to hide a thing or two from my doctor in the past. Usually it’s because of possible embarrassment, and sometimes fear of the dreaded “you know better” lecture. But when it comes to health care, honesty really is the best policy.
Once when I was a teenager I had a nagging, hacking cough that just wouldn’t let-up. I made a doctor’s appointment for the afternoon, and during the day noticed that my legs were very achy and sore. At my appointment, the doctor asked if my legs had been sore, and I was amazed that she would ask such a question when I was in with complaints of something that I thought was totally unrelated. I told the doctor that indeed my legs had been sore that day, and she immediately ordered a battery of tests, suspecting a blood clot.
There’s no reason why I would not have admitted to my physician that my legs were achy, but this was the best personal real-life example that I could come up with for why full disclosure is a good policy to uphold with your doctor. Doctors know a lot – but they don’t know what’s going on with you unless you tell them. Even though a question may feel embarrassing or invasive, the ultimate goal is to diagnose and treat any medical problems.
As this relates to incontinence, think about why it might be important to admit to a doctor that you smoke, or that you drink four glasses of iced tea each day. Both smoking and caffeine, along with a host of other foods and drinks, can be bladder irritants, leading to problems with incontinence. A doctor who is interested in and knowledgeable about incontinence will know this – but you might not. It’s your doctor’s job to use their knowledge to diagnose and treat you. It’s your job as the patient to provide any and all information that your doctor needs about your physical condition.
Stay tuned next week for the rule of follow-through.
Published On: January 25, 2007