Multiple Sclerosis and Effective Communication With Your Doctor

September 12, 2007 at 4:58 pm  •  Posted in Living With Illness by  •  0 Comments

By Jane Elson, ACSW, LCSW


I find it an overwhelming experience going to the doctor. I have so many questions and sometimes feel confused by the office atmosphere. Very often, the doctor is in a rush and when I leave the office not all of my questions have been answered. Even if they are answered, I don’t always remember the answer. Do you have any suggestions?


This is a problem I hear often. Having a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is stressful in itself. The added complication of trying to manage symptoms and negotiate the maze of the medical system can easily make anyone feel overwhelmed. If your doctor is often in a rush or doesn’t answer your questions satisfactorily there are a few things you can do .

First of all plan ahead for your next visit. Keep a pad or a notebook in a handy place and start writing your questions down a few days before your next appointment.

  • Try to bring a spouse, caregiver or a close friend or relative with you to the next doctor appointment. Have this person familiar with your list of questions as well.
  • Be sure to write down the answers to your questions. Also, write down any additional instructions your doctor gives you. If these answers or instructions seem unclear, ask for verification.
  • If your neurologist is part of an MS clinic, you will usually have an opportunity to meet with the nurse practitioner after you meet with the doctor. You can further clarify any information or instructions with her.
  • Some people actually bring a tape recorder along with them to the doctor visit so they can replay their discussion with the doctor again when they get home.
  • When you make your next appointment, ask how much time you will be scheduled for and plan accordingly.
  • Speak freely to your doctor about your emotions. He or she needs to know what’s going on in your life to better understand your needs, particularly if you’re going through a personal crisis.
  • Make it a habit to bring your notes with you from your last visit. You may want to get a notebook just for doctor visits.
  • Don’t be afraid to be assertive. A good doctor will respect a patient who is taking an active part in the management of their own healthcare. This is a team effort; be part of the team.
  • You want your doctor to be a good listener. Make sure you are one also.


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