Being an effective advocate
An article on how to be an effective advocate. Printed with permission from Lisa C. Greene
Often many of us “don’t want to be a bother”, we’d rather not ask our medical team questions or express concerns we might think are “silly” or trivial. But research shows that people who do speak up for themselves will likely fare better.
This becomes especially important when dealing with a chronic condition like cystic fibrosis. Being an advocate for yourself, or your loved one, is likely to lead to a better state health.
But how do we that?
Here’s a story about Sue who is an effective advocate for her health.
by Lisa C. Greene
Sue has a serious chronic medical condition and visits many different doctors each month. She is on top of her medical situation and sometimes brings in new research papers to discuss with her team. When a new doctor prescribed her a medication without explaining what and why, she gently but firmly told him, “I am happy to follow doctor’s orders as long as I understand them. When would be a good time to answer my questions?”
Sue is an advocate. She seeks accurate medical facts and information. She empowers herself with knowledge. But knowledge is only half of the story. What good is knowledge without wisdom? Wisdom is knowing how to use knowledge effectively.
Sue sees herself and her doctors as a team. She believes in a collaborative approach to her medical care. But her style is not without conflict. There have been times when busy doctors with a brusque bedside manner didn’t particularly like being “second-guessed.” But Sue has a great way about her and it’s hard not to like her. She is able to detect when she is starting to get some resistance and goes into her “Conflict Resolution Mode”:
Step 1. Show empathy and understanding for the other person’s position. “Ohhh, it looks like you are super busy today and probably don’t have time for my questions. I can understand that.”
Step 2. State your position using “AND” and “I” language: “And I can take much better care of myself if I understand the reasons behind your decisions here.”
Step 3. Suggest alternatives: “Is there a time that we could talk about this later by phone or even email? I won’t take much of your time, I promise. I just have a few basic questions about what you are suggesting. Thank you for being willing to help me out.”
Sue is a successful advocate for her healthcare because:
1. She is knowledgeable about her medical condition. She actively seeks accurate information from reliable sources.
2. She stands up for herself and isn’t afraid to be assertive.
3. She is calm and respectful even in the face of resistance or conflict.
4. She doesn’t take abrupt (some say “rude”) medical professionals personally.
5. She is not demanding or threatening.
6. She doesn’t tell others what they have to do but instead shares what her needs are.
7. She understands that having an effective approach is in her own best interest so she works hard at learning good communication skills.
8. She tries to be appreciative of the doctor’s knowledge and expertise (even if she doesn’t like the doctor as a person).
9. She understands that being an advocate is not the same as being pushy or aggressive.
10. She uses a collaborative approach to solving problems.
Sue knows that her good health is ultimately up to her and the choices she makes. And, as an effective advocate, she is prepared and empowered to make good decisions that will impact her life, and those who love her, for years to come.
Lisa C. Greene is the mother of two children with cystic fibrosis, an author and public speaker. She wrote the award-winning book “Parenting Children with Health Issues” with Foster Cline, MD and published by Love and Logic.
You can find more information on the Parenting Children With Health Issues website.
“Turning Knowledge Into Wisdom: Being an Effective Advocate” was reprinted with permission from Lisa C. Greene.