Sunday, July 21, 2013

I Am Author, Hear Me Chat!

My radio interview this morning was a blast, Sharon Gaiptman and the crew at KINY were terrific and if you missed listening to it, here's a link!  Capital Chat KINY Interview 7/22/13

Tomorrow from noon-2p.m. I'll be signing books and chatting with folks at the downtown Hearthside Books!  If you're local, I hope you'll stop by and let me inscribe a copy of Magic All Around for you!

Have a joyful week!

Monday, July 15, 2013

How To Talk So Doctors Will Listen

Portrait of author by @Siredodo

I went to a doctor appointment with a friend this morning and I’m going to write, today, about how to communicate with doctors.  My friend is strong, assertive, and confident but we all need support sometimes.  Right now, my friend is in a cast, in pain, away from her home community, and just spent a hellish week in the hospital.  I was glad I went to this appointment with her. 
This isn’t what I usually blog about but it is something that is vitally important and it’s something I know a heck of a lot about due to my years working in mental health and developmental disabilities where I often attended appointments with clients and acted as a support  and an advocate.  I’ve done this for people both inpatient and outpatient.  I’ve traveled out of state to be with clients during various surgeries.  I’ve gone with people to talk to general practitioners, internists, psychiatrists, emergency room doctors, urologists, cardiologists, orthopedists, oral surgeons and others.  These days, friends and family members often ask me to attend appointments with them.  Let me share with you what I know. 
Doctors are usually under incredible time/billing pressure and are rarely trained to be good listeners.  If you find or have a doctor who listens well, and with empathy, you are very lucky.  Make sure you tell your doctor how much you appreciate this.  Do not be surprised or take it personally if you meet with other doctors who are rushed, pressured, bossy and who interrupt or talk over the top of you.  It should not be this way, but it is this way.  So, until we effect adequate change in the entire system, we must deal with what we have. 
Here is what I want you to know and do:
1-    Unless you have a legal guardian (i.e. under 18 or experience disability that has led to you being provided a court ordered guardian), you are under court-order to follow doctor orders (usually related to probation), or you are in a mental health unit with a court ordered “mandatory medications” order, you have the right to refuse.  You have the right to refuse medications.  You have the right to refuse procedures.  You have the right to refuse services.  If you decide that a course of treatment is not right for you, don’t allow someone to bully you into it.  If they do the procedure against your express wishes and without a court order, please file a grievance. 
2-    You have the right to take along an advocate.  This is a friend, family member or even a professional who can offer you moral support, ask questions you don’t think of, take notes and speak up if they feel you are not being listened to, or treated properly.  Even if your advocate never says or does a thing, having an extra body in the room will improve the chances that you are treated with a bit more respect.  Make sure that you and your advocate agree about what his/her role is and when or if s/he should leave your side.  Make sure you take an advocate who will not be disruptive but actively constructive.  Even if you take an advocate, YOU are the patient.  The doctor should primarily communicate directly with you.
3-    Have a plan before you go to any scheduled doctor appointment.  Know what your top three goals are.  More than three or four objectives and you’re going to lose the doctor along the way.  Leave additional goals for additional appointments.  Rehearse what you want to ask, what you want to say, and answers you want to give to any uncomfortable questions you are expecting.  Write it out.  I ALWAYS take a list to my own medical appointments. 
4-    Try to think and speak in bullet point format.  This isn’t easy and takes practice.  That’s okay.  Practice and you’ll get better.  Unfortunately, few doctors attend well to verbal narrative longer than about a minute or two, so this skill is worth cultivating because it’ll allow you to communicate more in less time.
5-    Speak up.  If you are a soft spoken person, you must practice speaking in a loud (not yelling) voice.  Imagine that you’re in a noisy restaurant and speaking to someone across the table from you.  That’s about the volume I suggest.  If the doctor is speaking much louder or softer than you, it’s okay to adjust your volume to match.
6-    Speak in a firm, or even stern tone of voice.  You’re not trying to make friends here, you’re trying to get your needs met and be treated with respect.
7-    To the best of your physical ability to do so (I understand pain & various ailments can interfere with this, as well as being on your back in a bed) use assertive body language.  Face the doctor head on.  Make eye contact.  Don’t smile or grin when you’re talking about what is most important to you.  Keep your shoulders back and your head up.
8-    At the end of your appointment, verbally summarize the plan of action while talking to the doctor.  Example, “So, you’re going to call that prescription in to my pharmacy and send a referral to the hospital for an MRI.  I’m going to go to my other doctor and sign a release of information so they can send you records, and I’m going to schedule the MRI and a follow up appointment with you for about three days after the MRI.  Is that right?”
9-    If you don’t know what you want, or if you are emotionally overwhelmed, ask for a time out.  Most doctors will be happy to go work on another task (or take a bathroom break) for 3-5 minutes while you compose yourself and/or make a decision. 

I hope you find this helpful.  I may well have forgotten or overlooked important things, so please feel free to leave comments and add to what I’ve written. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Change In Course: Avoiding The Land Of Misanthropy

This month marks my one-year anniversary on Twitter.
I recall my silly pre-Twitter days.  I remember asking, “What’s that?” and “Why?”  I also remember thinking, “That sounds complicated.  I don’t think that’s for me.”
Yeah, I was scared to be on Twitter.  My hands actually shook when I opened my account.  Why did I do it?  Because I read that you can’t be a successful self-published author without it.  Little did I know what Twitter would actually mean to me!  About 3/100 of what I get from Twitter is related to my author platform.
Early life experiences led me to believe that most people are untrustworthy and dangerous.  As my life progressed, I was delighted when I found a few other humans who were kind and not trying to hurt others.  Still, I was a cynic.  I’ve always expected ulterior motives and underhandedness from most humans.  In many ways, I’m still cautious about people, but Twitter has turned me away from the misanthropic destination I was dead-set for a year ago. 
I’ve discovered that there are hundreds and thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of good people on Twitter who genuinely wish well towards other humans and are willing to take action individually and in groups to make good things happen.  Every single day, I am awed by the kindness of my Twitter friends; by their emotional support, their interest, their humor and their wise words.  I am not overstating the case when I tell you that on Twitter, I feel like I’m part of a movement.  This is a movement of global citizens who are socializing and having fun while shrinking the world and tearing down the barriers of culture and geography. 
I owe a thousand thanks to each of the wonderful people that I’ve met on Twitter. THANK YOU!

In celebration of this anniversary, I am delighted to announce that next week my friends @nycmoon and @CoolPawMickey will be guest posting about Twitter etiquette!   
Also in celebration of this anniversary, my short memoir Head Buckets & Hashtags: An Alaskan Childhood In Tweets, which I first wrote on Twitter this past March, is free from Amazon Kindle through this Thursday, 7/11/13!

The other big news in my life is that our wonderful local indie bookstore, HearthsideBooks has agreed to carry the paperback version of my novel Magic All Around and to host me for my very first book signing on Tuesday, July 23!  For more details, please check out my new EVENTS blog tab.

Have a joyful week and don't forget to pay attention to all the perfect moments that come your way.