Patricia Shafer Presenting

Patricia Osborne Shafer, RN, MN, is an Epilepsy Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the Associate Editor and Community Manager with In 2006 she was the recipient of the American Epilepsy Society J. Kiffin Penry Excellence in Epilepsy Award given to those whose work has had a major impact on patient care and in improving the quality of life for persons with epilepsy.

What kinds of questions do people ask you about medication?

Here are some typical questions about medication that I am frequently asked.

  • How do I know which drug to use?
  • How do I monitor medicines?
  • How can I recognize or manage side effects?

How do you respond?

While only a doctor can tell people what to do in specific situations, I can help people think about where to find information about certain drugs, how to monitor their use, and what side effects to look for.

Additionally, I can help people compile a list of questions to ask their doctor when considering different treatment options.

What kinds of questions do people ask about seizures?

These types of questions are fascinating. They really point out what it is like to experience seizure symptoms and how difficult it can be to know when to seek help. Some typical questions include:

  • How can I tell if a certain symptom or behavior may be related to seizures?
  • How can I track seizures?
  • Can you tell me about epilepsy syndromes?
  • What are the best diagnostic tests?

How do you respond to questions about seizures?

People often ask very sophisticated questions and I try to pick out an underlying theme that would be of general interest. When answering these questions, I try to help people learn what characteristics depict a seizure. I give guidance on what to do if events persist. I might also suggest where people with epilepsy might find information about seizure first aid or when to get emergency help. I can also help with finding information on diagnostic tests or when to ask for more testing.

Would you say that you just give general guidance rather than advice?

As you can see, these are very general questions since I do not give specific medical advice nor do I provide a second opinion. While it appears that the questions I am asked are very basic, they are often the most important ones that a person needs answered and these are the ones that are usually missed during office visits.

Oftentimes people do write in with very specific questions or concerns. Despite my background in epilepsy, and my first hand experience, I do not provide individualized medical advice. I try to address the underlying themes and questions that people are searching for.

Do you answer all of the questions yourself?

While I personally answer most of the questions, I will also send questions to other experts from time to time. I try to answer a variety of questions each week. If a question is too specific and asking for individual medical advice, we will not be able to address it.

Additionally, people can check out previously answered questions by looking in the Information Topics in the right hand navigation bar.

To learn more about the community, please go to

Edited by Steven C. Schachter, MD