Difficult Conversations Workbook

Chapter 4: What You Need From Your Healthcare Team

Decisions about treatment can be harder to make as options become limited. Over time, your goals for care can change—and so can what you need from your healthcare team.

“We really want to know that [our doctors] care, that they’ll do the best for us… we need to hear that,” even if they can’t offer a cure, says Cathy. “[Doctors] don’t need to change the reality, but they don’t have to wipe out the hope,” says Laura, emphasizing that “compassion is a big piece” of the care she looks for from her doctor.

As a patient, communicating clearly about what you need most from them makes it possible for doctors and nurses to provide more effective and individualized care.

Even though Fritz values his physicians’ clinical knowledge, he says, “My well-being, as a concept, and a goal, and a way of life, is more important than what they can do for me medically.” Needing to be prepared for what he can expect, Steve suggests that doctors should, “write it all down.”

Ask yourself:
What do I need from my doctor at this time?
At this time, what I need most from my doctor is...
(examples: promptly returned phone calls or emails; candor regarding prospects for treatment success or side effects; written directions; respect for my preference for alternative treatments or palliative care; etc.)

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