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How To Level The Playing Field With A Doctor


Unless you have a medical background, it is easy to feel intimidated when you meet with a doctor. Intimidation can make it difficult to have a relationship in which you feel like a partner instead of a person being told what to do.

In order to level the playing field with a doctor, consider the following:

  • Discuss with the doctor what to call each other. For instance, will you both be formal and use last names, or more informal and use first names? It's hard to be on an equal footing when you say "Doctor XYZ" and the doctor calls you by your first name. It's even more difficult if you are in a hospital gown, and the doctor is in street clothes with or without a white coat.
  • Learn about your condition and the key words that will be used. If from nowhere else, your doctor and his or her team can give you this information. The information and use of the correct words makes the meeting faster and the information more precise. It also helps keep you on an even footing with the doctor.
  • Keep the physical aspects of the meeting as even as you can. There's not a lot of choice about being in an examining gown, or lying down to be examined while the doctor towers over you. However, once the physical exam is completed, you can sit up on the exam table or move to a chair if one is available.
  • Do your best to feel comfortable even when you're naked under a flimsy cloth or paper gown. Tips that have helped other people feel more comfortable are:
    • Wear two dressing gowns, with each one opening in a different direction, so there is no opening for your private parts to show.
    • Practice being in an examining gown at home. Create a gown on your sewing machine or with a few hand stitches. A free pattern is available by clicking here.
    • If you don't have a sewing machine or aren't handy with a needle: 
      • Wear a large men's shirt or bathrobe backwards. Don't close the back. Leave it open just as normally happens with a hospital gown. Spend a couple of hours going about your normal activities inside the house. 
      • It helps to do this in front of close friends or family members. 
      • The key is to get comfortable with this kind of exposure. If it helps, think of it as a rehearsal for a performance.
  • A doctor's white coat may be intimidating. If you find a white coat intimidating, consider telling your doctor that the coat is an intimidating symbol to you, and ask him or her to remove it when you are discussing your condition and/or treatment.
  • When meeting with the doctor in his or her office, instead of sitting across the desk from each other, move your chair to the side of the desk.


  • Do not be obnoxious about keeping the playing field level. You are more likely to get what you need, including extra time, from people who like you. 
  • Caution: Please do not interpret liking you to thinking that you shouldn't mention all your symptoms or to speak up for what you need. Always tell all your symptoms and speak up. We're talking about your life.

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