Communicating well with your doctor and health care team is a skill. Some people are naturally better at it than others, but everyone can learn ways to communicate better!

If you're having trouble talking to your doctor, or you don't feel that you’re getting your needs met, it's often helpful to step back and look at what is going on.

  • How do you both communicate? Are you able to listen well to the doctor? Is the doctor giving you a chance to ask questions? Is the doctor listening to you?
  • Are you seeing the right person? Sometimes people expect one doctor to address all their problems, when a team of health care providers might work better.
  • What type of doctor-patient relationship are you looking for? Some people want the doctor to be in control and make decisions. Others want to make the decisions themselves. And some people want to share control and decision-making with their health care team.

Each type of doctor-patient relationship requires a different way of communicating. If you know what you want, you can work on developing the right skills to communicate well with your health care team.

You also need to figure out how and when to communicate with your team.

How often should I see my doctor?

That depends on a number of things, including:

  • How long you have you had seizures
  • What your seizures are usually like
  • Where your seizures usually happen
  • Whether you are going through any special circumstances or treatments

Scheduled appointments usually give you the most time to talk with your doctor, but there may be times when you need help between visits, too. If that happens, call the doctor’s office and ask if you can be seen right away.

Why do I need to track my seizures?

Doctors like to look at a situation and collect data (information) about what is going on before making a decision. When you track your seizures and how you are feeling, you’re bringing in the critical data that your team will need. When you don't do this, it's very hard for your doctors to know what to do next.

Tips for appointments:

  • See your doctor regularly – at least once a year, or as often your doctor recommends.
  • If you're trying something new or going through new situations, ask to see your doctor more often. Visiting your doctor more often during times of change can help you manage chronic health problems.
  • Bring your information and personal experiences to each visit. Bring information about your seizure tracking, medicines you take, your seizure plan, any side effects or new symptoms you’re having, changes in other medical problems, and how your seizures are affecting your daily life.
  • Before making a decision, ask as many questions as you need.
  • Do your homework. Make a list of what you need to do so you’ll remember to do it. Make a list of what the doctor is going to do for you, too.

Tips for phone calls:

Ask your doctor how their office handles phone calls. Some doctors may have specific times for phone calls, or a nurse might take all phone calls first. Some doctors may also use email or other types of electronic communication.

When should I contact my doctor?

You may want to contact your doctor in situations like these:

  • If you start having more seizures, or you have seizures that are different from your usual pattern
  • If you have unexpected side effects, or bad side effects
  • If you have an unexpected problem that develops after surgery
  • When you’re sick with another illness
  • When you’re taking a new medicine
  • Before surgery or procedures for a different health problem

There may be times when you should not wait for a routine call back. Ask your doctor who to contact in an emergency, and how to reach them. If the problem is urgent, you may need to talk to a different doctor or go to an emergency room.

If you have serious side effects and you can’t reach your doctor, go to your local emergency room or urgent care clinic.

If you have a seizure emergency, call 911 for emergency medical help right away.

Authored By: 
Patricia O. Shafer RN, MN
Authored Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Joseph I. Sirven MD
Tuesday, October 28, 2014