Today’s episode discusses how important it is to ditch the faulty idea that your health and wellness is ultimately your healthcare provider’s responsibility, and instead empower you to embrace the realization that your health and wellness begins with you learning to be in tune with your own body, being intentional about discovering what it needs and how to keep it functioning at its most optimal level. There is no doubt in my mind that the power of edifying yourself concerning your health goes such a very long way.
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Pamela Jon Thomas: I can remember wanting to be a doctor from a very early age, a pediatrician to be exact. You see, I experienced really bad asthma attacks as a child which afforded me ample time on the Pediatric ward in the hospital. I can also remember all of the personal attention and wonderful care I received, and how I appreciated the doctors and nurses for helping me feel so much better. They were all Superheroes in my tiny little eyes, and I wanted to heal people just like them when I grew up...
Fast forward about 14 years later to when I had my own child who was also an asthmatic and needed frequent stays in the hospital...well, initially he did. Now that I was the parent, and also an aspiring nursing student, I paid extremely close attention to every single detail that went into my young son's care. Sure, I was still very appreciative of all the love and empathy my child received during his ER visits and hospital stays but, what was most important to me was how did they make him better and was there something within my power as his mother that I could possibly do to prevent him from even needing to come here in the first place?
Hey everyone! I'm your host, Pamela Jon Thomas, and thanks for joining me for today's episode.
I want to talk to you today about something very near and dear to me that I see every single day in my practice with at least 2-3 of my patients, something that simply blows my mind, that I just cannot believe people allow, and something that I believe you as a busy, intuitive and intelligent professional should be aware of in order to keep up your personal health. That something is what I have officially titled "Being Your Own First Doctor".
You see, I believe that we have all been groomed by our healthcare system to believe that our medical personnel has all of the answers to our health problems and that we can trust everything they say and blindly follow every care plan they give us...well, of course, there are some noteworthy exceptions (remember the Tuskegee experiment?) And yes, doctors, nurses, and all other healthcare experts are amazing people who help change lives everyday...heck I'm one of them, so of course, I would never come against my own honorable profession. (BTW shout out to all my amazing healthcare colleagues for your tremendous feats during this pandemic! WOOHOO) Sorry guys, had to throw that in there.
But, on a serious note, before I call myself a nurse, I am a human being who has a dutiful responsibility to my own person to know what's going on first with my own body. It is not my provider's responsibility to take total care of me; nope, it's mine. Think about it: If your doctor told you that the only way you could save your life from COVID-19 was to jump off of a bridge, would you just accept this and go find a bridge to carry it out, or would you question him and even perhaps seek a second opinion? Of course you would!
I see patients every day who take multiple medications and have absolutely no idea what they are, or why they take them. As the patient and I delve even further into conversation, I ask them why would they take something into their person that literally modifies their bodily functions without knowing what it is or why they're taking it. And you know what the answer is every single time? "Because the doctor told me to take it. And my doctors know everything so I trust them."
Yes, I concur, providers are very knowledgeable, capable, and in most cases, very trustworthy. After all, they've spent anywhere between 5-8 additional years in school, honing in on their craft, and most, if not all, have the debt to show for it. Most are also driven by a true passion to serve others and dedicated to helping them improve their health.
However, they are not the end-all, be-all, and their presence definitely does not relieve you of your duty to know your own body, pay attention to what it is telling you, take care of it, and educate yourself on what you put in it and how it affects you.
Here's your food for thought: have you ever considered that perhaps if you paid close enough attention to your body's behaviors and responses to internal and external stimuli, perhaps you could find the cause of its ailment, modify what is causing that ailment, and then maybe you won't even need the outside modifier, i.e., your doctor's remedy called medication after all?
Here's a list of the most common reasons patients tell me as to why they never ask their healthcare providers questions:
No. 1: I feel too intimidated to even ask - Never ever allow any sort of healthcare title, whether MD, NP, PA, and so forth, make you feel afraid to ask questions about your body that affect your health. After all, it is your healthcare provider's responsibility to educate you and keep you informed on how they are working to help you achieve optimal health.
No. 2: There's never enough time to ask - Most patients tell me that they spend more time waiting on the doctor to enter the room than actually visiting with the doctor, which leaves very little room for bombarding the provider with a slew of inquiries. And yes, this sounds very familiar. Most doctors are only allotted roughly 15-minute slots to see their patients because they may be seeing 20 plus patients per day. However, this time barrier still does not excuse them from doing their actual job, which is educating their patients. A quick solution to this problem is jotting down any questions or thoughts you may have before your appointment. That way, you can simply just pull out that list when the provider enters the room, ready to dive in.
No. 3: It's all too overwhelming and I'm just too busy! I can barely say the name of my medications, so how can I ask questions about something I can't even pronounce? - OK, so you can't pronounce lisinopril, or amlodipine, so what?! That doesn't excuse you from knowing about them, why you take them and how they affect you. Research them online (now don't go become a Google doctor; use good judgment), but read the pronunciation on the leaflet insert of the packaging the medication came in, ask your pharmacist or perhaps even ask a nurse if you happen to know one. The point here is there's always a way to find out, especially when it concerns your personal being. Being too overwhelmed or too busy to address your health now will cost you greatly later.
No. 4: My healthcare provider has been around for umpteen years; they know what they are doing so I'm in good hands - Having a well-seasoned doctor whom you've built a strong rapport with is one of the most sought after healthcare relationships out there, and can benefit your health greatly. However, it still does not excuse you from the responsibility of knowing all that you possibly can about own body and your own health. And a really great healthcare provider would not only take good care of you; they would also strongly encourage you to take good care of yourself.
Sooo, circling back to my son's experience with asthma and my curiosity about how to get and keep him well just like the doctors and nurses did at the hospital, what do you think I did? I became my son's first doctor. I educated myself on the asthma disease process, learned what triggered flare-ups, learned how to prevent those flare-ups and how to treat them at home if necessary, and guess what? This magical thing happened! No more late-night ER visits, no more inpatient overnight hospital stays, and no more need for endless breathing treatments, all because of my willingness to educate myself instead of totally depending upon someone else's knowledge and expertise to take of my son.
From that point on, my son was considered a well-controlled asthmatic, and if he did indeed experience a flare-up, it was a pretty rare occasion and I was able to effectively treat him in the comfort of our own home. What a difference being your own first doctor makes!
Here's the bottom line guys: You only get one body, the one you are currently living, breathing, and moving in right now. You.are.your.body. Invest in it by educating yourself about how it works, what it needs, and what it takes to always ensure that it performs at its most optimal level. The power of edifying yourself goes such a very long way. BE YOUR OWN FIRST DOCTOR. Your body will thank you for it.