Becoming Your Own Best Advocate

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Jul/Aug 2010 | Download PDF

by Élan Young

Self-advocacy for any person with any medical need involves becoming informed about the medical choices available and effectively making the best choices for oneself based on the available options. It is an active role, not a passive one. The goal in self-advocacy is to empower patients to see themselves as experts in what is needed and useful and to ask for it.

Some suggestions for self-advocacy include:

  • Be respectful but firm with your needs.
  • Do not be intimidated.
  • Be wary of any medical professional who tells you not to worry about the details or that information is too difficult to understand.
  • Treat medical staff the way you want to be treated.
  • Educate yourself as much as possible about your condition or symptoms.
  • Network with others who have been through similar situations.
  • Always consult with your doctor prior to making any medical care changes.
  • Know that you are always entitled to a second opinion.
  • Be persistent and ask for clarification.
  • Request written confirmation of kept promises, timeline or denial.
  • Keep good records.
  • Know your rights.

There are no stupid questions. Inquire until you are comfortable and satisfied. Some questions you may want to ask your physician, prosthetist or therapist are:

  • Do you have experience treating people with limb loss?
  • What are your credentials?
  • What is the treatment plan you offer or suggest?
  • How long should we wait to see if this medication/therapy works before we try a new one?
  • Is this the only option available?
  • What other options are used to treat these symptoms?
  • What do we need to look for or be aware of?
  • When should we visit you again?
  • What additional information can I provide that will help you offer the best care?