Tips for Improving Your Self-Advocacy Skills

You know yourself and your asthma best. So there is no better person to advocate for you than you. By communicating with doctors, all of us develop some self-advocacy skills. Yet there is always room for improvement. Here are some tips to help you improve your self-advocacy skills, and get the most from your doctor's appointments.

Tips for improving self-advocacy

Keep an asthma journal

Many things happen between appointments, and it can be difficult to remember all that happened since your last appointment. So this is where journaling can prove helpful. In your journal, you keep track of asthma-related events that occur over time. Are you experiencing asthma symptoms? Write it down. Note the date. What do you think triggered your symptoms? What did you do to relieve your symptoms? You may also want to write down your peak flows every day. Bring your journal with you to all appointments. By reviewing your journal, your doctor may gain a better picture of where you are right now. This may help your doctor determine if changes need to be made to your asthma treatment regimen.

Make a list

You can do this in your asthma journal, or you can make a separate list. As time goes by, I often think of things I want to discuss with my doctor. And yet, when I am in the office my mind goes blank. So, I have learned to make a running list of things I want to discuss. My list may include things like the following: (in fact, this is my current list:)

  • Would a medicine like Xolair help me at all? I asked my allergist and this resulted in a nice discussion. Now I want to know what my PCP has to say.
  • I have been having palpitations at times. Could this be due to my Symbicort? Or is it something else causing it. Thoughts? (stay tuned!! I write about this in more detail in an upcoming post.)
  • My dentist thinks I am at high risk for sleep apnea. He thinks I ought to do a sleep study. What are your thoughts? This is my way of getting a second opinion on something I do not want to do.

So, these are some of my notes. I will bring these topics up one by one. And this will begin the discussion. Of course, you will have your own concerns to add to your notes.

Ask questions

Making a list can help you get your questions answered. Although, here I am referring to questions that pop up while you are in the office. That said, do not ever leave doctor visits with unanswered questions. All this results in is unnecessary stress and worry. It may cause you to do a Google search, and this can provide you with inaccurate information. It may cause you to assume, and this can add to your worries. Instead, you will want to get answers right from your doctor’s mouth. Sometimes, as my doctor is talking, I wait to see if he answers my questions. Some doctors can foresee what questions you have and answer them before you ask. Still, sometimes I get to the end of the appointment, and still, my question is unanswered. This is where I take a moment and say, “I have some questions.” A great doctor will take the time to make sure all your questions are answered.

Record your conversation with your doctor! 

I have done this a time or two. I especially do it when I am seeing a new doctor. I find this is very helpful, especially as a doctor starts getting into deep medical terminology. By recording it, I can listen to the conversation later. I can slow the recording. I can pause it as needed. I can write things down, and I can look terms up to learn what they mean. And, when my mom called me one day because she was confused about what her doctor said. I recommended she record the conversation next time so I can hear what the doctor says. This way I can help my mom understand the doctor, and I can help her feel less confused.

Bring a friend to your appointments

This is another strategy that I think works for some. Obviously, as a kid, my mom went to all my appointments. This was nice because sometimes she understood things better than I did. So, if you can, bring a friend with you to your appointments. Bring your son. Bring your daughter. Bring your best friend. At least have this person available when the doctor is explaining things. It can really help.

How do you advocate for your asthma?

These are all things that can help you get the most out of your doctor visits, and improve your self-advocacy skills. Personally, I like to bring notes. And, at times, I have recorded my doctor and listened to it later. What about you? Have you used any of these methods? Let us know in the comments below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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