Stuttering with the Doctor

One of the things I’d like to do with this blog is to educate fluent people what specific interactions are like for those of us who stutter. I’ve outlined a few of these already when I talk about what I’ve been stuttering on. So here’s another one — related to the doctor’s office.

I read this article regarding doctors and the current state of health care here in the US. I just want to focus on the bits relevant to stuttering.

I think most of us know that a visit to the doctor’s office is full of a lot of waiting punctuated by a quick conversation with the doctor. I’m not even sure you can call it a conversation at times. More like an interrogation, a pause, and then a diagnosis followed up quickly by a good bye and then wondering how to get through the maze of offices back out to the reception area.

The demoralized insiders-turned-authors are blunt about their daily reality. The biggest problem is time: the system ensures that doctors don’t have enough of it. To rein in costs, insurance companies have set fees lower and lower. And because doctors tend to get reimbursed at higher rates when they are in a network (hospitals and large physician groups have more leverage with insurance companies), many work for groups that require them to cram in a set number of patients a day. Hence the eight-minute appointments we’re all familiar with.

Ah yes, the quick appointments. They are intimidating to me as well. I feel like if I start asking the doctor about some other types of medications, other problems I’m having or whatever-else, it’s wasting their time. So I don’t. I also give quick, short answers because I don’t want to stutter. I think in some cases it’s all on the doctor how I’m going to talk … or not. They can easily come off as being rushed, being more important, or being distracted. All of this adds up to a less-than-optimal visit.

I guess my problem is that because of technology, I don’t see the point (and thus justify) in asking the doctor a lot of questions about whatever ailment I have. I can just go home and look it up.

So what can I do? I want to be able to talk, to engage. To get my eight minutes’ worth!

Here’s what I’m thinking. What about advertising my stutter to the nurse who takes my vitals and asks me what’s wrong in the first place? They might put it on the chart for the doctor to read. I’m usually more relaxed for the nurse anyway — more time, less tension … they wear bright happy, colors. I don’t know. It’s just easier to talk to them.

Yes, I could certainly just advertise to the doctor anyway, but that might not go well considering the aforementionned intimidation and perceived time constraints. At least this way if the doctor reads it, he might even ask about it. Or understand that it’s hard for me to talk — so no, I don’t need pills for anxiety or anything like that.

Maybe what else I can do is prepare a short list of questions so I don’t forget to ask something.

This of course is all for back home in the States. Here in Saudi it’s a whole other ball of stress because of the language. None of the doctors at our local hospita/clinic are native English speakers. And they’re not used to any kind of stuttering anyway. I’m not even sure advertising would do me any good. I also don’t have a doctor who I see all time because I go so infrequently.

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