Preparing Your Self- Advocacy Notebook

Do you find yourself getting nervous as you prepare for a visit with your doctor? Do you come with questions only to realize that you forgot them all when you enter the room as you begin to feel more overwhelmed and anxious?

Today, I want to share with you a tip to help you to feel ready to come to your appointments feeling prepared to advocate for yourself. I want to help you get started by recommending that you write your questions down in advance. I have been doing this before every one of my appointments for years, and it prepares me to effectively express my wants, needs, questions, and concerns.

I have created a self-advocacy notebook, this helps me to keep the information organized and easy to refer back to after the visit. I want to share this with you all today to help you to feel ready to go to your appointments feeling prepared to advocate for yourself! 

What you will need to create your very own self-advocacy notebook is: 

  • One Notebook
  • Two Pens
    • These pens will need to be two different colors. I personally like to use one black pen and one blue, but pick the different colors that feel right to you. 
  • I use two different colored pens to differentiate my questions from the provider’s answers.

How to set up the notebook once you have the materials:

  • Write the date and the name of your provider on the top of the page. 
    • I write the name of the doctor and the date in the same color pen as my questions, etc. 
  • I leave space to write any pertinent information that may be discussed during the visit. (I write this in the same color pen as the provider’s responses) 
  • I write my questions, needs, concerns, etc in black pen and my doctor’s answers in blue. What colors will you choose?
    • Having two different colors is helpful in reminding you what the answers to your questions were in a very clear and organized way. 
    • It also helps you to be able to easily refer back and reference this information to a different doctor or health professional to keep everyone on the same page. 
  • I generally prepare my questions the day before the appointment.
    • I also will have the notebook handy a week or so before the appointment to write down the questions as they come to me so I don’t forget to add it later.
    • I also often add some questions the day of (you will find over time the approach that works best for you.)
    • Be sure to use the same color pen for all of the questions. 
    • When the day of the appointment comes, use the other pen to write down the answers that were provided. 

Now that you know what you need and how to set up your own self-advocacy notebook. You may be wondering, do I need to be so old school and use pen and paper or can I use my phone, computer, or IPad? 

I have tried taking notes on my devices and it is good to remember that you can easily use two different colors when using devices as well to differentiate your questions from the responses. However, what I have found to be challenging and the reason that I switched to using a notebook and pens is because I often had trouble connecting to their server. I would be kicked out of their network as soon as the doctor would enter. During a visit, you often have limited time and don’t want to waste it trying to get your device to work. I have found that using a notebook and pens to be the most efficient, reliable, and consistent way to keep track of pertinent information that was discussed as well as my questions, etc. and their responses. 

I have found this process helps me feel less anxious on the day of the appointment and empowers me to advocate for myself- by clearly expressing my wants, needs, and concerns and getting clarity around anything that I had found confusing or unclear. By taking detailed notes and writing down the responses, I am able to look back and review to make sure I have a clear understanding of what occurred and what our plan is moving forward.