Communicating with Healthcare Professionals

Your healthcare professional can sometimes leave you feeling frustrated
Your healthcare team can sometimes leave you feeling frustrated

Many people express that when they go to see their diabetes team, although things have been ‘done’ - HbA1c discussed, feet and eyes checked, diet overhauled - they haven’t really felt heard.

Common experiences of relating to healthcare professionals that I hear from people with diabetes I work with are:

  • Feeling scolded or like a ‘bad’ patient
  • A pressure to lie about their blood glucose results or other health behaviour
  • Feeling rushed
  • Being patronised, unintentionally or otherwise
  • Feeling misunderstood
  • Not feeling free to talk about what is really of concern e.g. that diabetes is getting you down, how it is affecting your family
  • Feeling that the healthcare professional is an “expert” and can’t be disagreed with
  • Not attending health appointments at all and avoiding healthcare professionals entirely.

This isn’t a criticism of the diabetes team, quite the opposite.

Your healthcare team should be on your side

They are committed to helping you to gain control of your diabetes and remain in good health by assisting you to manage the delicate balance between food, insulin and activity so that your blood glucose control is just right.

But have you thought about the challenges that your healthcare professional or your doctor may have to operate within?

  • Feeling pressure to be the ‘expert’
  • Working within an environment (especially in NHS contexts) with stretched resources
  • Not having as much time to spend with patients as they’d like
  • Feeling at a loss to know how to help
  • Team conflict amongst their colleagues
  • Working to meet government health targets which prioritise ‘hard’ data such as blood glucose control achieved over ‘soft’ data such as psychological wellbeing or quality of life
  • Being aware that they can’t fully appreciate the lived experience of diabetes (being an ‘expert’ rather than an ‘expert by experience’)
  • Having to maintain the caring role at work when experiencing personal challenges in their life outside of work

How does it feel to read this list? Do you recognise any of these pressures? Or do they perhaps surprise you? Just viewing the ‘doctor-patient’ relationship from another perspective can be insightful.

This is one of series of Psychology articles by Dr Jen Nash, a Clinical Psychologist who has been living with type 1 diabetes since childhood.