The first thing to remember is the medical team looking after you is on your side! We have found that being polite and friendly paves the way to a better relationship with them. It can get out of hand though: Nick was blamed by the nurses on the chemo unit for them putting on weight because of the boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts which were brought in by a caring friend!
We understand how easy it is to take your frustrations out on the medical staff especially if they are administering an unpleasant procedure. We know it’s stating the obvious but they have off days too and the occasional smile or even joke from you can make all the difference.
Your doctor/consultant has gone through years at medical school and additional years of learning their speciality. Let them know how much you value and appreciate their care and expertise. However, do remember that, while you may not be medically qualified, in many respects you know your body and history better than anyone else and it will be to your benefit to assert your role as the expert on you. Never be afraid to ask about the medication you are being given and why. It is your body after all. Polly was christened, ‘Miss 24 questions’ by her medical team owing to her inquisitive and challenging nature!
Unfortunately, occasionally you meet a doctor who is lacking in people skills and who definitely has not kissed the Blarney Stone! So what can you do? Having a consultant who appears to be abrupt, aloof and uncommunicative was a predicament that one of us had to deal with. This was a particularly difficult situation as the consultant was renowned as being one of the top specialists in the country. Do you ask to be transferred to another specialist and hope they’re as good? Or do you take on the task of educating someone who is lacking in interpersonal skills and hope you can improve the relationship? Despite feeling absolutely terrible because of the treatment, our patient liked a challenge so opted for the latter! Strategies employed included always being the first to extend a hand to shake his, asking open ended questions and using the journalists favourite tool of asking ‘who, what, why, when and how’ along with some subtle mirroring of body language. With time, things started to improve. If you are interested in discovering more about communication skills see the resources page. It is useful to remember to use the ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ technique.
Be polite and gentle but firm.
For more excerpts from The Cancer Journey – Positive Steps to Help Yourself Heal, please visit us again next week for the 3rd instalment.