You Should Feel Empowered to Advocate for Yourself & Your Diabetes

Contributor
Molly Johannes, CDN'S Community Engagement Manager & former CDN Chapter Leader

This was the message conveyed to me after one of the best endocrinology appointments I’ve ever had, at least in my adulthood.

At the beginning of the appointment, my nurse practitioner asked me what I’d like to discuss with her. I babbled on and on about a disheartening message exchange between myself and another member of my healthcare team in which I was told I needed to have better control of my diabetes. I expressed how frustrating this was because I’ve made a lot of progress over the years, and it was upsetting to have a healthcare professional who isn’t familiar with my diabetes history arrive at this presumption.

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"My diabetes might not necessarily be to blame for any other health issues I was experiencing."

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I braced myself for a negative reaction, but to my relief, that’s not what I got. Rather, the NP asked me to explain my concerns in greater detail. She sat, listened, and told me that she disagreed with the comments from my other doctor’s office. It was validating to hear someone who actually does work in diabetes reassure me that, for starters, my diabetes might not necessarily be to blame for any other health issues I was experiencing. She also made me feel better about my A1c and that my track record proves how hard I’ve worked over the years to maintain a 7 (or below) and that it’s not indicative at all of a lack of control over anything.

Best of all, when I sheepishly admitted to her that I’d been embarrassed to write in about the health concern in question, she reminded me that I should always feel empowered to advocate for myself and my overall wellness. It was an incredibly powerful message for her to convey to me, seeing as my self-doubt had manifested itself in full-force over this whole interaction with the doctor’s office. It’s a message that I plan to carry with me to future doctor’s appointments to help ensure that I do stay on top of my health to the fullest extent possible, while also making my voice heard.

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"She reminded me that I should always feel empowered to advocate for myself and my overall wellness."

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If you find yourself in a similar situation and need some tips on how to advocate for yourself at the doctor’s office, here’s what I’d recommend doing:

1) Speak up: Don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare team when you have a concern that you’d like to talk to them about. You might feel awkward discussing certain health matters, but remember that it’s their job to help you - nothing you say will surprise or shock them! And remember that speaking up includes telling your provider about any innovative types of therapy or care that you want: It’s their job to help you access these tools and resources that can help ensure you get effective, safe, and convenient care.

2) Get a second opinion: If you disagree with any guidance given to you by a member of your healthcare team, consult another doctor that you see (and trust) for advice. Consider asking your primary care physician for a referral to another medical professional so you can feel doubly sure about what another doctor has told you.

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3) Be proactive in communication: It’s frustrating when doctor’s offices don’t reply to your messages in a timely manner (or at all), but it does happen. That’s why it’s important to follow up as often as you need until you’re satisfied with the level of care you’ve received.

4) Lean into your support network: I’m so grateful for my support network! It’s nice to know that I have people in my life that I can turn to and ask for advice when it comes to health problems. Even though most people in my life aren’t medical professionals, it’s still helpful to be able to vent to them when I’m not feeling heard. And turning to the diabetes online community when I’ve had trouble speaking up for myself at the doctor has worked wonders! It affirms that I’m not the only one who sometimes struggles to find my voice as a patient.

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" It’s nice to know that I have people in my life that I can turn to and ask for advice when it comes to health problems."

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5) Review your patient rights: If you still need help advocating for yourself at the doctor’s office, remember that you’re entitled to certain patient rights. Some are guaranteed by federal law whereas many states have specific laws. You may be able to seek extra help from your state’s department of health or your hospital’s patient advocate team. Research online to find out which options are available to you.

Advocating for yourself can, at first, feel daunting…but the truth is, the more you advocate for yourself, the better health outcomes you are likely to have. And if you remember to be proactive in your care, it can lead to improved diabetes management and even a greater understanding of your overall health needs. I recommend checking out CDN’s educational resources, such as the We Speak Diabetes™ Insurance materials, young adult guides, and blog posts to learn more about how you can use your voice and advocate for the best diabetes and health care experiences possible!

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Editor's note: This post is sponsored by Sanofi. Sanofi is a CDN Corporate Member.

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Molly Johannes is the Community Engagement Manager for CDN. She earned her English degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and joined the CDN team after spending several years working as an Editor in the financial technology industry. In her spare time, she manages a blog about daily life with T1D called Hugging the Cactus and enjoys making connections with other people with diabetes around the world.