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Tips for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia Patients: Making Your Doctor Your Personal Health Care Partner

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From Pamela Rice Hahn,
About.com Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia.

Your Best Plan for Finding Your New Doctor

You should consider your doctor as your partner in health care. As a partner, there are things you can do to enable him/her to provide the best of care to you! One of the first things you can, and should, do is to have questions ready so when you’re choosing a new physician, you know you’ll be picking the best one for you and your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia concerns.

Finding a Doctor

First of all, if you don’t have a doctor you see on a regular basis, make it a priority to find one. Similarly, if you’re not happy with the doctor you’re seeing now, begin the search for a new one.

When you have a doctor you see regularly (rather than a different one every time you are sick), he or she will become familiar with your history, allowing you to establish a trusting, long-term relationship.

If you choose a Family Practitioner, she can take care of all of your general illnesses and health care needs, including yearly PAP smears, blood tests, and so forth. If your illness is more severe, or you are more comfortable with someone with more experience treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and/or Fibromyalgia, you might choose a physician who specializes in treating those syndromes.

The best way to find a doctor is through word of mouth — asking friends, co-workers, and acquaintances who they recommend.

Schedule an appointment to meet the doctor before you are sick. This will give you a chance to decide whether or not you are comfortable making him your regular doctor. To properly treat you, a doctor must know the details of your health history and health practices. If you are uncomfortable sharing your past sexual history; your smoking, diet, or exercise habits; or mental health issues like depression, your doctor cannot properly assess your health, order necessary tests, or prescribe correct medication.

During your “get acquainted” appointment, talk with the doctor about issues that are important to you. Your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and/or Fibromyalgia and her treatment approach, of course, will be a major issue, but also ask the doctor such things as:

• When she prescribes antibiotics

• Her feelings about holistic health treatments

• If she allows phone consultations (Lets you call her to discuss health issues rather than coming in for an appointment)

You might also want to ask the receptionist if the doctor can usually see you the same day if you are acutely sick and need immediate attention. (If there is hesitation, you can follow up that inquiry with questions about who handles the doctor’s patients when he or she is not available.)

Be realistic. If you know you won’t be comfortable discussing the sensitive issues listed above, enlist a friend or family member to do so for you.

Another important consideration is whether or not the “nurses” who work for the doctor are Registered Nurses or Licensed Practical Nurses, or are just called “nurses” but have little or no medical training. (The latter is unethical, but unfortunately it still occasionally occurs.)

Once you meet the doctor, it’s time to check your feelings. Will you feel comfortable with this doctor treating you when you are sick? Are you confident she is up-to-date on the latest treatment and research regarding Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and other, routine illnesses, too?

Also consider the environment of the office. Is the waiting room pleasant? Are the receptionists polite? How long was your wait?
You might feel uncomfortable interviewing a prospective doctor this way, but it’s important to get to know your doctor at least a little bit before any additional health problems come up. If you’re not comfortable with the first doctor you try, ask for more recommendations! It’s of the utmost importance that you trust your doctor and feel comfortable with the way she is or will be treating you.

Using Your Doctor

Once you’ve found a partner in health care, use her wisely!
Regular check-ups are a must, not just for someone with a chronic illness, but for everyone! During these routine check-ups, you’ll have the opportunity to develop a relationship with your doctor. They will also allow your doctor to detect small problems before they become major issues.

Ask questions! Keep track of potential questions and a list of any unusual symptoms you may have experienced. A notebook small enough to carry in your purse or pocket is good for this purpose. By having this notebook handy, when you’re in the office (whether for a regular check up or because of illness), you can rely on your notes rather than your memory to update your doctor on any new symptoms you’re experiencing.

Ask your doctor which signs and symptoms warrant an office visit, which might just require a phone call to her, and for which it’s okay to wait and see for a day or two.

Remember! While it’s important that you write down any questions you have before you go into the office, it’s also important that you also write down your doctor’s answers. Don’t rely on your memory when it comes to your health. It’s normal to be a little nervous when visiting the doctor; with written notes you’ll be sure to remember important questions and information — and then be free from doubt about what your doctor suggested.

New medications checklist: Whenever your doctor prescribes a new medication, be sure to ask:

• When the medication should start working

• If you should take the medication around the clock or just during waking hours

• What side effects are possible, and when such side effects warrant a call to your physician

One more thing for your notebook. Keep a list of all medications, vitamins, and supplements you take. This is an important step to preventing any potential adverse interactions with new medications your new physician may want to prescribe.

Use these suggestions and you and your doctor will work together to ensure your best health possible!

Shelly Burke, RN, is a happy, at-home mom. She and her husband have two children and many pets. Shelly is the author Home is Where the Mom Is: A Christian Mom’s Guide to Caring for Herself, Her Family, and Her Home, from which this article is adapted. For more information, or to read an excerpt of Home is Where the Mom Is, visit www.homeiswherethemomis.com.

Source: About.com (http://chronicfatigue.about.com/od/articles/a/newdoctor.htm)

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