Caring for a loved one who is ill is stressful. Caring for a loved one who is ill and in hospital is even more stressful and something that adds to that stress is not knowing what is happening. There are questions about treatment, care, side effects, how to manage after discharge and so much more. In Questioning Protocol, author Randi Redmond Oster, writes about her experiences when her son, Gary, is hospitalized and requires surgery for Crohn’s disease and what she learns about communicating more effectively with doctors, nurses, and the other medical professionals who are helping her family.
In writing about the reactions of people she talks to and how she feels about the way people talk to her, we get a better understanding of not only what we could be communicating but how. For example, the difference it makes when speaking to the doctors in a calm voice, and being supportive of the patient by giving them suggestions and choices instead of orders.
In addition to her very personal view on her interactions, she includes tips at the end of each chapter. One in particular that served her well was “Set expectations up front in your first meeting”. In one situation, despite discussing how she and her son wanted to be consulted about treatment decisions the doctors made, a treatment order was given contrary to their wishes. In discussing the treatment order with the doctor she could refer to the fact that she’d set expectations up front and they hadn’t been met, and Randi was able to stop the treatment in order for her son and herself to get a better understanding of their options. Later in the book she describes how being clear in your expectations makes it so much easier for the staff to work with you.
Another suggestion that I liked was to “Ask WHY, say NO”. How often are we too intimidated by doctors to do these two simple things? Even more so when we’re ill, tired and stressed. Doctors are knowledgeable about medicine but we know about ourselves, so in asking “Why?” we can get a better understanding to help us make a decision that we and our doctors can be happy with. And remember, it’s ok to say NO when you’re uncomfortable with something your doctor is recommending.
Patients are people, too!
It’s too easy, for any number of reasons, to just “go along” with what we’re told to do and not question our doctors. Communication can be complicated when incomplete information is given both ways – from patient to doctor and from doctor to patient – and the results can be harmful. In Questioning Protocol, I really appreciate how Randi describes her thought processes to explain her techniques in communicating with the doctors and includes lots of great suggestions for us to incorporate in our interactions with medical professionals.