Reality Check: Taking Active Control

Gregory has been waiting for years for an appointment with a medical specialist. We know that it can feel like years when we’re waiting, but Gregory says that literally years have gone by without even an initial appointment.

That’s not under Gregory’s control, right? True. We don’t have control over medical waiting lists. So Gregory has passively sat by the phone, feeling more and more hopeless as he waits and hopes for that call. What can he do differently?

One suggestion is to take active control of whatever he can control in his situation. For example, Gregory can start by asking his family doctor: What specialist was I referred to? When was the referral made? What was the response?

What if Gregory learns that his sneaking suspicion is true; that is, the referral was never requested? Lost? Not followed up? Or there was an appointment but he was never notified? Those unfortunate situations do happen. What then?

Gregory has choices in how he responds. He could get angry. Or he could become indignant, declaring that everyone is incompetent. Or he could burst into tears, his shock and disappointment fueling the feeling that no one cares about him and his pain. Those reactions are all understandable.

However, will they help Gregory get what he wants—that referral appointment? Likely not. What response is most effective?

Remain calm. Even if Gregory feels like he’s starting all over, make the request. Write down the specialist’s name and phone number. Ask when he can expect a response. If the expected timeframe is unreasonable, he might offer flexibility, such as proposing that he go elsewhere in the province for the referral.

After waiting for the referral to be processed, Gregory could contact the specialist’s office himself to confirm that the referral was received. He could ask where he is in the process, and get an estimate of the timeframe. Gregory might also let them know that he’s open to taking a cancellation at short notice, if that’s the case.

Gregory could also start keeping a record of the names and dates of his conversations. It’s easier to follow up when you know to whom you’ve been speaking. Remember how important relationships are!

Another benefit to a record is that it shows the truth of his timeframe. Our perceptions can be deceptive: three months of waiting in pain can feel like a year. It can be comforting to know if it’s not actually been a year, even if it feels that way.

When ill, it can feel like we have no control; that we are just numbers in a system with nothing that we can do. While many things are out of our control; taking an active approach toward what you can control can help you feel better, and it may even be effective. Do you think that taking an active approach to your health care is helpful?  Let me know…

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