Patient communication is a huge part of health literacy. While the doctor has a significant responsibility to make sure things are communicated effectively regarding procedures and impediments to a patient’s health, patients also have a responsibility to talk to their doctors to make sure they understand what is going on and to make sure it is the best course of action for them.
As a literacy provider, ABE or ESOL, take the moment to incorporate this aspect of health literacy into your curriculum. Have your students create dialogues to practice a conversation with a doctor, dentist, or nurse. Brainstorm which questions you would like to know the answers for. If you get stumped, check out the AHRQ list of 10 Questions You Should Know. AHRQ also has a list of questions to ask before, during, and after your appointment. They also put together a video of patients and clinicians discussing the importance of asking questions. It should help calm the nerves of anyone who is worried about questioning someone as smart as a doctor.
It is important to let your students know that it is okay to question a doctor. Their health and well being are very important. Also let them know that everyone gets nervous. Helen Osborne is a Health Literacy Consultant with a background in medicine. In one of her blog entries, she documents how even she felt lost and nervous talking to doctors when she was a patient. In that post, she also documents important information patients should keep with them when they go to appointments. It is a good list to suggest to your students.
If you still aren’t sure what to do, review the Virginia’s Adult Learning Resource Center’s toolkit on “Tips for Talking with the Doctor.” It is focused on ESOL learners, but the information is appropriate for all students.
Thank you to Florida Blue for providing FLC resources to improve health literacy.