"I guess I should start an article out about telling the truth to doctors, by first confessing that before I became a doctor, I did not always tell the whole truth.
Often times, I minimized my symptoms or self-edited my responses to questions in an effort to “not cause trouble or be difficult.” I get that it is not always easy to tell your doctor the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! Sometimes it is easier to omit information, tell a half-truth, or maybe even tell a full out lie. I am writing this to encourage the opposite of even my own past behavior.
For the record, I do tell my doctor everything now.
Through my years of education and training, I have realized how important it is to get “the whole picture” when it comes to my patients and their health history -- this includes sexual orientation and behaviors.
There are many medical reasons why this is important but I would like to focus on something different today. I would like to stress that this is important because it means you TRUST your doctor. The bigger picture here is that being able to be completely open and honest with your healthcare provider indicates that a good relationship has been established, one built on mutual trust. I often tell my patients this is a two-way street; you need to trust and like me as much as I need to feel as if I can trust you and provide meaningful healthcare. I encourage everyone to find healthcare providers you trust and to be honest with them.
As physicians, we are not here to judge. We are here to help.
If you feel any differently at your visits with your doctor, maybe you should seek out a different provider. There is nothing wrong with “trying out doctors” until you find one that is a good fit for you. I know that I am not the best doctor for everyone who walks into my exam room. There have been times when patients and I have parted ways so that they could find a healthcare provider that can better meet their needs. I have learned to say, with confidence, “That’s okay!” For lack of a better term, “one size does not fit all” when it comes to finding the right doctor. It is critical to find the right fit for you.
As I rarely get the opportunity to communicate this to a mass audience -- get your yearly physical! It is important for people of ALL ages to get a yearly exam with their doctor. This is true for multiple reasons.
- First, it allows you to establish that honest, trusting relationship.
- Second, it provides an opportunity to discuss preventative health measures and to make sure you are up to date on all of your health screenings. It is better to be prepared and to stay ahead of things rather than wait for something to “be wrong.”
- Finally, what better time than when you are face to face with an expert, to have your questions answered?
Feel empowered. Feel encouraged. Take control of your health. Come out to your providers, it may save your life."
-Dr. Tara Ralph, Internal and Family Medicine
Page 20 / focusmidtenn.com / JUL+AUG 2017 / The Coming Out Issue