Monday, November 7, 2011

Learning to be a Great Self Advocate

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Gabrielle Martino, an Outreach Specialist with Disability Rights NC, gave an excellent presentation titled Learning to be a great Self Advocate at the Eastern NC Chapter's recent Educational Conference: “Living Well with MS: Education, Advocacy, and Support”

To be a great self advocate, I learned it is important to be responsible, to be engaged, to know my rights, keep my emotions out of it, to document everything well, to actively listen to the other party, to be respectful, and to follow up. These skills work on all levels. I feel they will not only help me with my day to day issues but also when meeting with political leaders on all levels. Gabby stressed the need for practice.

Following the Conference, my week started with several opportunities to demonstrate my new skills. I had difficulty having a prescription filled because it was being denied. I went to the pharmacy several times trying calmly to figure out what the problem was. After the problem could not be solved at the pharmacy I went home and called the Pharmacy Benefits Manager. As Gabby suggested I wrote down the name of the person answering my call. I then politely said “Mary I have a problem I was hoping you could help me find a solution to”. She looked into it and explained what I needed to do to allow the prescription to be filled. I thanked her for her help. I then called the pharmacy and explained to the pharmacist, again using her name and being polite what needed to be corrected. Likewise I thanked her for her help.

Also this week, I had an appointment with a new Specialist. I came prepared with notes from my other doctors. I answered his questions without trying to figure out why he was asking or interrupting him. I listened to him carefully as he explained my condition. After he had finished I explained politely my concerns about my health care. I then went home and looked up the condition he described.

i was proud to use these skills so soon after the conference. I was prepared, kept good documentation, asked for what I wanted, listened to the other party, was respectful, and followed-up. The last few tips are especially important because the other party may have a solution you never thought of.

For more information on being a self-advocate with medical professionals and in your community, visit the Society's "Advocate for Yourself" webpage.

--Written by Alex O'Connor
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