A teen’s guide to talking to your doctor

mott - olivia rowland full size

Olivia Rowland is a senior at Chelsea High School and a member of the Teen Advisory Council at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Even if our doctors just can’t speak on the same level as us, I can’t stress enough how important it is that we ask questions when we are confused. It can be a little scary to ask someone as intimidating as a doctor to change the way they explain something to you, but the benefit that you’ll get in doing so can be crucial.

I’ve also come to learn that doctors can’t do everything on their own.  My doctor can’t read my mind, and if there is something going on that he didn’t already ask me about, I need to speak up.  A large part of any healing process comes down to us working together with our doctors, sharing information with them and making sure that we walk away from an appointment understanding exactly what is happening to our bodies, and what the next step is.

It’s also helpful to understand that being in the doctor’s office can be stressful, so sometimes it helps to make a list of questions ahead of time so you don’t have to remember everything on the spot.  Here are some questions you can use:

When you are given your diagnosis…

  • Can you draw me a picture to help me understand?
  • Will there be any long-term effects of this problem?
  • Are there any activities or foods I should avoid?
  • When can I go back to school?

If you’re being prescribed any medications….

  • What does this medicine do?
  • What will happen if I don’t take it?
  • What are the side effects?
  • How long should I take it?
  • What if I accidentally miss a dose?
  • If I don’t notice any improvement, how long should I wait before calling you?

If your doctor orders any tests or exams for you…

  • Why is this test needed?
  • Are there any risks involved?
  • Will it hurt? If so, is there anything we can do to lessen the pain?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • How should I prepare for the test or treatment?
  • What side effects or changes should I let you know about?

Another thing you can do to take control of your healthcare experience is to let your care team know how to handle any uncomfortable procedures in a way that works best for you specifically.  Here is a form you can use to help them do that.

The more questions you ask, the more you’ll understand about what’s going on with your body. And when you know what’s going on, you can take better control of your own health.


mott - olivia rowland thumbAbout Olivia:  My name is Olivia Rowland and I am a Senior at Chelsea High School, about 20 minutes from Mott. I was first brought to Mott to see Dr. Rosen for an eating disorder that started about two years ago, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Not only did Dr. Rosen help me tremendously and refer me to other great help from hospital sources, but the atmosphere as Mott has always been very welcoming and friendly.


best children's hospitalAbout C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital

University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best children’s hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.

References: Questions to ask your doctor, Teens Health