In the Exam Room: Three’s a Crowd?
I love my mother, so much. Though it took her a while to come to terms with my limitations and accept things for what they are, she has since been an incredible part of my support system. As much as I appreciate her presence, there is one place I don’t want the company: in the doctor’s office.
How many of you find it more difficult to have a third person in the exam room?
How many of you find it more difficult to talk about some of the truly disgusting and ugly parts of your chronic illness with another person there? And what about when you are meeting a physician for the first time and have to reiterate your entire history?
So is three a crowd? Is there a way to avoid the crowd?
With my upcoming Mayo Clinic visit in mind, I again will be tackling the "I love you, but I would rather see the doctor and go over my symptoms in private" hurdle. It causes me so much anxiety that for the past three nights I have been replaying the scenario over and over again in my mind. Loved ones do not always take well to the request.
I’ve read multiple articles on the benefits of having another person in the exam room with you, from having another person’s perspective to having someone there to take notes and keep you from forgetting important information. Of course, sometimes it’s just nice to have the support and comfort of a loved one there. I love having someone with me in the waiting room; keeps the anxiety level low (with the right person, mind you).
But what happens when you would rather go it alone? Would rather be poked, twisted, talk about your bowel movements and affected sexual history without another set of ears to listen in?
How do you tell an eager loved one this without being offensive?
How do you make three (or four, or…) a comfortable number for both you and your physician?
Making three a comfortable number:
- Avoid confrontational third parties. The exam room of your rheumatologist is not for therapy sessions. The last thing you want to get into is an argument or tiff over your health. Only have someone with you in the room that is not going to make challenging comments. If you are explaining that your hair is slowly falling out intermittently, you don’t want a loved one who says something along the lines of I don’t think so! You didn’t tell me that! Since when?
- Do not have someone in the room that will make you feel uncomfortable when discussing the harder parts of a chronic illness. Example? If the person is not someone you can talk openly to about your diarrhea or constipation, you might want them to sit outside in the waiting room. There’s no reason to make an uncomfortable conversation even more difficult.
- Avoid confusing your doctor. You know your body best. When a doctor has two people with conflicting responses and does not know you well enough to decipher the truth between the two, how do you think s/he is going to feel? (Dr. Cranquis, input?) Does s/he agree, yes you are losing your hair? Or does s/he think "well maybe…" and fail to note the seriousness of the situation? If you know your body best, have your input be the end-all be-all. What an outsider sees is not the same as what you feel, both physically and emotionally.
- But you said you were getting better! This happens a lot. Often when I say one aspect of my body is responding to Enbrel, that in turn is interpreted as “You’re feeling better!!” Unfortunately, no, that’s not the case. Your ESR (measure of inflammation determined through blood work) can drop while your symptoms increase: autoimmune is one big mystery. It is imperative that the person in the room is on the same page as you. Again, conflicting information is going to be confusing for your physician and frustrating for you.
Your third party aside, it’s equally important for you to do your part:
- Be honest about your symptoms. If you are depressed and anxious and don’t know how to emotionally cope with your illness, you need to tell your physician or be honest if asked. You also don’t need comments from the peanut gallery that sound similar to this after you’ve just lied to your doctor: “What do you mean you’re not depressed!!?” Be firm, honest, and clear in your answers.
- Prepare. If you are bringing someone into that exam room with you that you have some apprehension about, set some basic ground rules. This doesn’t have to be nearly as formal as it sounds. A simple conversation about why you’re “nervous” to have someone there and what you’re “afraid” of might give your third party simple hints as to what not to do. If you have to be more explicit, so be it.
- Make a list of questions you have for the doctor, including your loved one’s questions, ahead of time. Whether you choose to bring them into the exam room, this assures your loved one that they will get the answers they need. Explain in detail (take notes!) to your loved one the information discussed and shared in your exam/visit. Do your best to include them and make them feel a part of the process. Chronic illness impacts the people around you just as much as it impacts you.
But how do you tell someone you want to go it alone?
Good question. There’s no one way for everyone. Generally I tackle the issue by just being kind and honest (which is not always successful, but seems to be the more appropriate way to do things). It’s really nothing personal— I just like a little bit of privacy during any kind of medical exam. There’s nothing wrong with that and it is your right as a patient to ask for space in the exam room. I’ll be sure to update this after my visit to the Mayo Clinic on the 6th and let you know how things turned out and add some insight/feedback from my visit :)
*As always, I love reading your feedback and suggestions in the Disqus comment box below!
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- cranquis reblogged this from chroniccurve and added:
- eeerrie said: I prefer having another person’s support. I think it also helps to have my mom verify my concerns. Some doctors question credibility if they think you are depressed.
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- nursingmonkeymomma said: i actually prefer having support people in the room with me. it makes it harder for the doctor to brush me off and it also helps me remember things. they add the outward perspective of my illness that i can’t see myself.
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