Are you a good patient?

What does being a good patient even mean? As far as I can tell, it’s generally assumed to be allowing others to take care of you, and doing what you’re told.

But … 

What about being an informed & involved patient? Researching your subject, thoroughly checking out the pros and cons of any treatments so when you are given options you can make an informed choice? 

Or an independent patient – someone who prefers to take care of themselves, soldiering on rather than depending on others. Whilst there are doubtless frustrations with this – especially for anyone living with someone who takes this course of action – it’s hard to argue against an individual’s right to choice. Indeed, so long as you’re not putting yourself (or anyone else) in danger by taking this course of action, is there anything actually wrong with making this choice?

While I generally follow the instructions of medical professionals, I don’t do it blindly. There’s no need to be distrustful and doubting, but being involved, informed and in tune with your gut, helps to keep you both invested in your care, and – I believe – safer. 

When we first moved to this country, our doctor expressed her beliefs on the subjects of good old-fashioned common sense and the dangers of an over-reliance on unnecessary drugs (anti-biotics in particular). She taught us – indirectly – about the importance of being active in our well-being. Since that time, I’ve also taken advantage of a number of alternative options, including a professional nutritionist, certain homeopathic remedies (to the evident satisfaction of nursing staff), as well as chiropractic and acupuncture. I have learned that while there is some stuff you have to live with, there are things you can do to help yourself – some of which are outside of traditional medicine. To me, traditional and alternative treatments are complementary, and it is worthwhile turning to to the second, especially when the first cannot help. 

But this doesn’t mean I’m some sort of hippy-dippy self-deluding patient. When diagnosed with breast cancer, I didn’t seek to treat it with essential oils or coffee enemas, I had surgery, radiation therapy and took the prescribed drugs. But but doing a bit of research, I knew ahead of time that my surgeon was within the top 3 in the UK, and that my local hospital’s cancer wing was very highly rated indeed, so I didn’t need to add to the stresses of my treatment by going to the treatment centre with the big name and the complex journey. I was an informed patient, rather than a passive one. 

I do advocate people making an informed decision, but if anyone prefers to simply follow the instructions of their medical professionals, I respect their decision and don’t beat my drum. At the other end of the spectrum, Himself is of the soldering on type, avoiding hospitals and medical professionals at all costs – so far, so stereotypically male. Yet I’ve never had cause to complain about him having man flu or displaying any form of self-pitying behaviour. He’s a responsible grown-up who’s chosen avoidance his way. We’ve discussed the subject at length and I’ve come to the state of mind that the fact I don’t agree with those choices is neither here nor there. I respect him, so I respect them.

What do you regard as being “a good patient”? What type of patient are you?

© Debra Carey, 2021

16 thoughts on “Are you a good patient?

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  1. A good patient listens to their Doctor, and if they have doubts they get another opinion. They maintain a healthy life style and try not to do things that aren’t good for them

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  2. I’m a patient person, but being a patient can be difficult for me. I also dislike being told what to do. But overall, in general, I’m a good patient. My father was a doctor. It might be in my genes to cooperate. Most of the time.

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  3. I’m definitely in the informed and involved group of patients. I will do my research (I was a scientist in my work life) and I will politely question. If the doctor’s ego can’t take that, I need a different doctor.


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  4. So at one point, I decided to put myself on a low sodium diet. I did my own research about it, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. But I ended up giving myself sodium deficiency, which probably contributed to some neurological issues that developed a year or two later. The lesson I learned is do not make major changes to your health without checking with your doctor first. If I had, my doctor would have probably told me my sodium levels were fine and I didn’t need to mess with a low sodium diet.

    However, I’ve had to deal with a few really bad doctors in my life, so I know not to blindly follow a doctor’s advice. Part of being a good patient is, I think, having good people skills and finding a doctor who has good people skills too. You’re going to end up talking about some really personal stuff, after all, and if you don’t feel comfortable having those conversations with your doctor, you probably won’t get the best results.

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  5. LA, I think that’s a good round-up of the situation, especially including the patient’s responsibility for self.

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  6. Ally, you had me going until the final remark 😀 I think I’m a pretty decent & agreeable patient too. The one time I’ve had a doctor making a really obvious bad call, I politely insisted on blood tests before taking myself off to do what I could to mitigate the situation. I felt smug internally when he raced to find me when the results came back, but kept my thoughts to myself.


  7. Deb, yup that’s me too. I politely refused to consult again the doctor I mentioned to Ally. Not because he made a mistake, but because he was rude & dismissive in doing so.

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  8. James, you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Doctors are often lacking in people skills which is a shame as trust is difficult to build in such circumstances. Oddly, a doctor most people I knew considered arrogant, I had no problems with – because he was bloody clever and always could (and did) back up everything he said. Clever always works for me, but it was also noticeable that he listened too.

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  9. And just like any other relationship, sometimes you’ll click with a person that other people just didn’t click with. What matters is that you found a doctor you can connect with.

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  10. I’m married to someone similar who will only seek treatment after going through what I consider to be a ridiculous amount of pain or discomfort. I suspect in her case it’s a leftover of going through years of not being covered by any insurance (an all too common fact of life here in the U.S.), and so she developed coping methods that linger to this day. With any affliction she might have, I’m in the incongruous gender-position of nagging her to see a professional. Any professional! Great, timely post, Deb.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. debscarey and LA, I worked at a hospital as a patient rep., which doesn’t make me an expert by any means. However, I had opportunities to eavesdrop on conversations staff would have with each other. According to what I heard, a good patient is one who listens to the doctor, nurse, whoever who is part of the staff, asks intelligent questions, doesn’t second-guess the staff, and follows through correctly on the instructions that are given.

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  12. James, I’m fortunate in that I’m pretty good at the inter-personal stuff, even if I say so myself ;), so it’s rarely a problem. And, in all honesty, most medical professionals are dedicated, hard-working & really good at what they do.

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  13. Marty, I don’t know how I’d feel living in a place where medical treatment isn’t free – that must really mess with a person’s head. Glad to hear that you’re overturning the sweeping gender generalisation there! 😉

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  14. GJ, I think that’s a pretty good description. Almost always, that’s me, for I don’t believe in seconding guess the experts, them being the ones who’ve spent years doing the hard work & training after all. But when it’s clear an assumption is being made based upon one facet without hearing the facts, I’ve stepped up. I’m fortunate that’s happened extremely rarely, but I have been proven right each time.

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