When our son Jack developed a mysterious illness in November of last year, our world turned upside down. Our once funny, vibrant, energetic boy could hardly get out of bed. Within a few short weeks, he was no longer able to attend school or participate in activities he had once loved. Over the course of the past six months, he has had ongoing medical needs including hospitalizations, ER visits, specialist appointments, lab work, and procedures.
In those six months we’ve had to learn how to communicate effectively and concisely with his ever-growing team of doctors. And we want to help you do the same!
1. Prepare an Elevator Pitch
In business, an elevator pitch is a brief, straightforward presentation that highlights what you provide and what makes you unique. Meeting with a doctor is no different. Doctors have little time and a lot of responsibility. They need to understand why your child is there and what stands out most to you as your child’s caregiver.
To do this effectively, first highlight your child’s most important and pressing issues. Try to limit this to a two-minutes-or-less overview of your concerns and your child’s needs. Then, let the doctor ask you questions. The more you can get doctors to ask you questions, the more interest they will likely take in your child’s case.
Think of it like dating. When you go out on a first date, you don’t tell your date your entire life story. Instead, you share a little bit at a time, prioritizing the most important things, and give your date the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about you. It’s the same with doctors. The goal is to strike a good balance between the right information and the right amount of information.
2. Approach the Appointment with Professionalism
Doctors are professionals. They respond to professionalism. You’re expected to feel strongly about your child’s health needs. In fact, it is essential that you keep that strength at the heart of each appointment. However, it’s important to make sure emotion doesn’t override professionalism.
When you meet with a doctor, do your best to stay focused and composed. This will lay a foundation for partnership and collaboration. If you cannot make it through an appointment without weeping, bring someone with you who can.
3. If You Have a Team of Doctors, Don’t Assume They Talk to Each Other
Just because multiple doctors are seeing your child, doesn’t mean they are all talking to each other about your loved one. As I mentioned above, doctors’ days are stretched thin. They go from appointment to appointment, case to case, with little time to make calls in between. This does not mean they shouldn’t be in communication with one another. It does mean you may need to help facilitate that communication.
Keep a running list of your child’s doctors, their areas of specialization, addresses, and phone numbers (including fax numbers) on hand so that you can foster communication between them. It may seem like a lot of work, but it helps you avoid a lot of headache in the long run!
4. Trust Your Ideas – and Your Gut
Living with Jack and knowing him better than anyone, we saw the pieces of his medical puzzle coming together before many of his doctors did. But in the end, it was crucial that his doctors came to see, diagnose, and treat him based on the combination of the evidence they saw and the information we provided.
So always trust your gut and bring your ideas to the table! As the person who is talking to every doctor, and who is spending the most time with your child, your side of the story is critical. I hope these tips will help you present that story successfully!