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A simple tool to help you talk to your doctor - SAFE

Posted Nov 18 2008 12:18am

When you visit your doctor, it's important that you have a clear agenda in mind, so you can communicate properly with him. I have found that SAFE, an acronym I devised , is very helpful.

SAFE stands for Story; Assessment; Fears; and Expectations.

S is your Story. This is what doctors call a medical history. You simply need to tell your story in your own words. The best way is to do this in chronologic order, starting with when you first started feeling unwell. It's a good idea to list all your symptomms, and if you write these down, it will help you ensure you don't forget anything important. Try to be as objective as possible - it's helpful to pretend you are a third party, reporting on the symptoms.
A is your Assessment of what you feel is wrong with you. I am not asking you to diagnose your own problem - just to let your doctor know what you feel is responsible for your problem. After all, you are the expert on your own body !
F is your Fears of what you are worried may happen to you as a result of your illness. Are you worried this will affect your ability to play tennis ? work ? affect your future fertility ?
E is your Expectations of what you want from your doctor. Do you want him to run some tests to reassure you that all is well ? Do you just want pain relief ? Do you want an accurate diagnosis ?

Here is an example of how an infertile patient could put the SAFE acronym into practise.
1. S = Story. Doctor, we've been married for the last 2 years. We used oral contraceptives for the last one year; and have been trying to have a baby for the last 1 year. Our sexual life is active; and my periods are regular.
2. A = Assessment. I really can't figure out why we aren't getting pregnant, because we are both in good health and everything seems to be fine.
3. F = Fears. I am afraid my tubes maybe blocked, because I did have a pelvic infection 2 years ago which was treated with antibiotics.
4. E = Expectations. I'd like you to run some tests on us to assure us we are normal and our fertility is fine.

Remember that your doctor cannot read your mind ! The more you tell him, the easier it is for him to help you. SAFE will help you do so !

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