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Stop Apologizing to Your Doctor, Say This Instead

Recently, I wrote an email to my specialist and felt the need to say, “Sorry for rambling!” at the end. But is this really how I should be feeling after communicating with my doctor?

I’ve been with this doctor for quite a few years, and yet I still feel the need to say, “I’m sorry” whenever I worry about being a burden to him or his practice. I think that it’s because I appreciate his care so much. When I realized what I was doing, I stopped to think -- I know that he wouldn’t want me to feel this way. So, I took a second look at that email and I ended it with “Thank you for taking the time to read through this!” instead.

I’m a savvy patient. I know a lot about my diagnosis and medications. I have a good idea of how to manage complex issues and emergencies as they come up. I communicate regularly with my medical team regarding new symptoms, lab results, and appointments.

And yet, when I advocate for myself, I still like to apologize for possibly being an inconvenience.

I was so close to calling myself an empowered patient – even thinking for a time that I was. And then, I noticed my need to undermine my advocacy with apology. Could this gut-reaction be a hold-over from the out-of-date paternalistic approach to managing care that I was raised on?

Doctors should be interested in their patient’s understanding of their care. They shouldn’t consider it a burden when patients communicate their desire to be involved. It’s proven to lead to better patient outcomes in care. If your doctor or medical team is making you feel this way, you should talk to him/her or consider making a change.

But, if you’re doing a lot of the right things - asking to be involved, informed, and heard - but you’re ending it with an “I’m sorry” and you’re not sure why you’re feeling like a burden, try asking yourself: what am I sorry for?

If you find that there is no substantive reason for apologizing, say, “Thank you” instead.

Just remember: you’re a member of your medical team with a right to information and input; there is no need to apologize for wanting to exercise that right.

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