Communication - Helpful Hints

Helpful Hints to Communicate Better 

"As a patient, you must become the most empowered and most knowledgeable person about your disease because you are in charge of your decisions about treatment. No one has a greater stake in your health than you do.” - Edward T. Creagan, MD, Mayo Clinic

Before your appointment

  • Go through the sample questions and mark the ones that you’d like to have answers to. More info about the sample questions.

  • You may want family members or the Patient Navigator to help you select the questions to ask

  • You and your trusted friend/Navigator may want to practice saying the questions before you get to the clinic
  • Keep a pad of paper with you at all times and write down any question that comes to mind.
  • Bring a tape record or record the session on your phone if possible so that you can review the healthcare team's explanations later.
  • You can talk with your Patient Navigator about asking these questions.
  • There are no dumb questions except for the ones you don’t are no dumb questions except for the ones you don’t ask.

During your appointment

  • Bring someone with you who you trust
  • This person is going to hear some very private information about your diagnosis / treatment / recovery.
  • Bring a list of questions that you and your family want to know or understand better.
  • If you cannot say the words that are in the question, during your appointment, you can point to the question and show the provider what you are trying to ask
  • Bring a tape recorder so that the conversation can be listened to later again.
  • Remember that you can ask the nurse as well as the doctor
  • Most providers would like you to tell them about problems that concern you.
  • It is easier to treat a problem when it begins rather than later when it gets worse
  • Many times the providers dont really know how much you already know or how much you want to know.
  • Make certain you understand those terms before you leave the office.
  • The provider or your family friend can write the terms down and what they mean

Healthcare Translation Services

  • You can request that a medically trained translator be provided by the hospital / clinic during your appointments.
  • By law, such services are to be provided by the healthcare setting
  • In reality, it is unlikely that there are trained translators who speak your Native language
  • Other hospital/clinic employees who are not trained as translators should not be asked to translate for you.
  • Your family members should not be asked to translate for you.
Why shouldn’t your family serve as the translators?
  • They are dealing with their own feelings and may want to protect you from hearing all of the information.
  • They are unlikely to translate all of the technical language being used.
  • Their interpretation of the information may not be correct.

These suggestions were modified from Edward Creagan, MD and Sandra Wendel ( Edward T. Creagan, MD. Mayo Clinic. Cure Spring 2003, page 11