Learning – Medicine for the Brain

Scientists and educators in the know tell us that “if we don’t use it, we lose it.”  The same is true when we talk about the medical arena.  If we don’t stay on top of this area in our lives, we are most certainly going to end up lost, disoriented and confused with too many unfamiliar roads and no directions as to where to go.  With this in mind, I have written a series of three blogs to be used as either a primer or a refresher on how to survive and even thrive through medical mayhem.

Folks, we are living in the foreign country of health care with its ever changing, ever evolving, convoluted system that is no longer just between you, the doctor and the hospital but about insurance policies, health care initiatives, rules, regulations. While medical care should be affordable, accessible and compassionate; today’s medicine seems to be practiced more by what your insurance covers and less than what your body needs.

But just like any foreign country – its culture and language can be learned.  Learn to understand the terminology or words.  Learn the process, the locations, and the customs of this foreign country.  Learn everything you can about your disease.  Learn about cures but also about yourself and what you would and would not do.

This leads to the inevitable question –  “What about the internet?  Internet is a wonderful resource for learning —  including things you never wanted to know about.  You know what I mean, right?   It is a useful tool for information gathering and to learn terminology – there’s that foreign language you need to learn.  But you must remember that everyone is uploading information – some factual, some anecdotal, and must be used for basic information only.  Be careful what sites you visit, make sure they are reputable and always look to back up that information with your healthcare professional.

Keeping your own medical record is a great way for you to learn about your disease.  It allows you to keep track of the different tests you’ve taken and sometimes can avoid repetitive and expensive charges.  It provides your team of health care professionals with your past medical course of treatment.  I found that keeping my own medical record helped me feel in control at a time when I was not in control of what was happening to my body or my life.

There are many ways to maintain a medical record from on line websites, Hospital and Physician Portals, thumb drives, to simply asking your health care providers for a copy of each test, each hospital visit and placing those results in a binder. In today’s healthcare system I would also suggest that with any radiological testing you have done, you not only ask for a copy of the written results but also be given the actual findings on a disk as well so that you can then take that information to any further opinions you may need in the future.

However you choose to record your medical information, there are four items which you should have on hand and keep updating.

  • One is a list of your medications either in your wallet or on the many different aps available for your smart phone.
  • The second is a Medical Fact Sheet which will have a chronological listing of medical events. Personally, I cannot tell you how these two items make my life easier when I am filling out new patient forms for the doctor’s office. And at my age, my memory needs a little help.
  • The third is a list of questions to ask.  You think you know exactly what you want to ask, but once you are processed, in an examining room with nothing but a paper gown two sizes to small and the doctor finally joins you –I don’t know about you but those questions can be long gone.  Write them down.
  • The fourth is an advocate. Someone who can be your eyes, ears and even your voice if necessary. During covid our daughter was found to have a spot on her thyroid and needed to see a specialist but couldn’t have anyone with her.  So we arranged for a zoom call with her in the doctor’s office, her husband and ourselves so that we could be those ears.

Additionally you will want to insure that you have a living will.  Take some time to think about how you wish your last time on earth is to be spent.  Don’t leave it for when you are too ill to think of these wishes or worse for your loved ones to make decisions while they are hurting from their loss.  A Living Will makes your wishes known and ensures that you will receive the care you wish.

Learn through healthcare providers-everyone from your doctor, nurse, NP, to the x-ray technician and front desk clerk.  Each person is a tour guide in this foreign country of modern medicine.  Each has information to help make this path clear for you.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being in equal partnership with your healthcare provider.  You must work as hard at finding a doctor you trust as you do at finding the right pair of shoes or the right bra. You will be spending a lot of time with your health care professional so you must be comfortable and feel secure.

We must be in tuned with our bodies and not be afraid to ask questions even at the risk of the doctor thinking we are questioning their abilities and knowledge.  Because we are!  This is a test.  And if the doctor fails the test, we will seek other counsel.  Second opinions should be sought whenever there is doubt or inconclusiveness.

Change Providers if necessary.  If your provider becomes upset because your request a second opinion, run!  They should NOT be your doctor.

Learn and make decisions as equals.  The doctor may have the medical knowledge you do not but no one knows your body like you do.

That is why it is essential that you be in partnership with your doctor so that he or she can impart to you an understanding as well as expectations of your disease and thereby both you and your physician will make decisions that are best suited for you.

A friend of mine was having a surgical procedure done and knew that she would need pre-surgical screening and testing done by her general practitioner.  When she was 13 days from her procedure date, she realized that no one had called her to set up her pre-surgical screening and testing.  When she called her general practitioner she was told that the orders had not been sent over by the surgeon.  She called the surgeons office which then elicited the orders being sent to her GP so that the testing could be scheduled.

But what if this had happened to someone with no prior medical history or experience – who did not know the steps entailed to having surgery?  The surgical date would have come and without the prescreening, would have had to be rescheduled.

Ok, so how do you know what you don’t know?  It’s not easy and there is no healthcare procedural handbook because the procedures and the medical arena are constantly changing.

So here are my thoughts:  Don’t assume you will be told what to do.  Do not assume that it will be done for you.  You must ask what the procedure entails, take notes and then follow up to confirm that it will be done or has been done.

Ask the questions –

What is the next step?

  • Who is going to do the next step?
  • What do I need to do?
  • When does it need to be done by?
  • Or when will I have the results?

Healthcare is an industry – a commodity.  You are the consumer.  Remember that healthcare professionals are people too and can make mistakes. Offices don’t always run as smoothly as we would like. Doctors are being forced to practice the art of medicine as a business and not always being able to honor their Hippocratic Oath.   Do not dwell on what a provider did or did not do, rather what we can do to make the practice better.  If you’re having problems with a medical practice, chances are someone else is or will as well.  So speak up, respectfully, not only to give light to the problem but offer solutions for quality care.

Again, healthcare is an industry and you are the consumer. 

I have a simple way of remembering how to go about learning all you can.  You have all heard about practicing safe sex, right?  J Well, we must practice S.A.F.E. Medical Care. S.A.F.E. is an acronym I use to garner good care.

S is for Seek:  Seek as much knowledge from all available sources.  Educate yourself on your particular medical adversity.

A is for Ask:  Ask questions and keep asking questions until you no longer have any questions but are filled with answers.  Answers that will help you and your doctor make an informed decision.  One you can live with.

F is for Find:  Find a health care practitioner who is willing to help educate you and be in partnership with you.  Tell the doctor that an informed patient is a compliant patient.  And every doctor wants that, right?

E is for Execute:  Once you have a solid knowledge of the disease and process for healing, and a health care practitioner that you trust, don’t hesitate to execute the plan of action – no matter how frightening it seems. Don’t procrastinate!  Or worse, act as if it doesn’t exist.

Again, SAFE – Seek, Ask, Find, and Execute!

Stay tuned for the second post entitled:  Laughter – Medicine for the Heart.


Thank you for reading my post.  If you have found it encouraging please consider liking, commenting or sharing it.  Feel free to even re-blog – may these words take flight!

I have additional insights I’d love to share with you found in the pages of my debut book: Surviving Medical Mayhem – Laughing When It Hurts.  To order a copy or learn more go to my website at www.lorettaschoen.com

Blessings for Health & Wellness.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *