Are You An Assertive Member of Your Health Care Team?

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We asked on our Hydrocephalus Association Facebook Page:

Many of us work with a team of health care providers. What are your top three tips on how you communicate with them to be an assertive and effective member of the team? “

We had received some really valuable input and feedback.  Here is what some of you shared with us:

Karin Buchanan:

  1. Do your homework! Learn everything you can about your/your child’s condition from reputable sources.
  2. Speak up! You are the expert on your own or your child’s day-to-day life experience. Your knowledge will round out the big picture for the clinicians.
  3. Get involved! Join a fund raiser or start your own that will help you feel empowered to DO SOMETHING to make a difference for your/your child’s future.

Kathi Tackel Hodgkins: “For a regular visit I put all questions in writing, present to nurse before visit. In an emergency, I have to be very direct about what my family member needs”

Lacey Beckelhymer:

  1. Ask plenty of questions
  2. Let them know as soon as there is an issue they can’t help if they don’t know what’s going on
  3. Awareness

Angela M. Carter:  “Know your medical history and complications”

The most important thing to remember as you work with your or your loved one’s healthcare team is you are in a partnership. The Key to this relationship is good communication.

It is important to be an active participant in the decision making process about the necessary care for you or your loved one. Going to a doctor’s visit could make someone nervous, impatient and even scared, so preparing for the visit will help you get the information you need and facilitate the communication between you and healthcare team.


  • Be organized. Come to the doctor’s office prepared with information about your symptoms.
  • Prepare a list of your questions about your symptoms, medications you are taking.
  • Consider taking a family member or a trusted friend, ask them to write things down for you and remind you about questions you shared and you wanted to ask the doctor
  • Don’t be rushed. Ask plenty of questions and feel confident that you understand the answers.
  • Demonstrate your knowledge and flexibility by actively participating in the decision-making, planning and evaluation processes. Avoid aggression and conflict by assuming responsibility and taking every opportunity to be assertive.
  • There is no need to feel intimidated. To achieve their objectives professionals need your help just as much as you need theirs. Be assertive- mutual respect is a great basis for a relationship!
  • Make sure you understand the role of each member of the treatment team.
  • If you think a second opinion would help, never hesitate to ask for one.

For more in depth tips on 1) how to partner with your healthcare provider and be assertive, 2) how to select a doctor visit the following links:

  1. How to Be an Assertive Member of the Treatment TeamHydrocephalus Association Fact Sheet
  2. Talking With Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People. National Institute on aging.
  3. Talking with your doctor. MedlinePlus.
  4. Quick Tips—When Talking with Your DoctorAHRQ Publication No. 01-0040a, May 2002. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
  5. How to Talk to Your Child’s Doctor Nemours Foundation.
  6. Fact Sheet: Second OpinionsHydrocephalus Association.
  7. Questions To Ask Your Doctor. Hydrocephalus Association.
  8. Talking to Your Doctor. National Eye Institute.  Also available in Spanish.

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