What Women Can Do When a Doctor Doesn’t Listen To Them

Posted by  Soribel Martinez, LCSW

Whether you’re visiting your doctor for a routine visit or a specific reason, you’ve probably been thinking about your appointment for a while. Maybe you’ve planned some things you want to say. You might even have a list, so you don’t forget anything you’re concerned about. 

But the moment your doctor walks in, your confidence wavers. You only have a few seconds to talk before your doctor chimes in and starts giving you a routine “speech” that makes it seem like they’ve said it 100 times already that day. 

As the appointment goes on, you might ask yourself if the doctor is even listening to your concerns. Do they care? Are they validating your feelings and providing reassurance? 

If any of that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. 

One recent study found that only 21% of patients believed their talks with their doctors went well. That number is even lower for women. 

So, what can you do, as a woman, when your doctor doesn’t listen to you? Although it’s, unfortunately, more common than we think, there are steps you can take to get the attention and care you deserve. 

Be Specific

If you want to make sure you’ve heard, be specific. Don’t go into your doctor’s office just saying “my throat hurts” or talking about a generalized problem. The more specific you are about your concerns and needs, the harder it will be for them to offer blanket statements. 

Tell the story of when your ailment started. Have you experienced pain there before? What were you doing when it started, and how long have you been dealing with it? When you cover these details, you’re more likely to get a detailed response. 

Additionally, if you tell an entire story, you’re more likely to feel listened to and validated. Saying one or two statements about how you feel is much different than offering a complete narrative. 

Bring an Advocate

If this isn’t your first visit with a particular doctor and you feel as though you’ve been “ignored” in the past, consider bringing someone with you. Having a family member or friend at your side can completely change things. 

Someone else might be willing to speak up for you or ask the doctor questions that you missed. While practices have different rules on who can enter an exam room with you, fight for that person to stay, especially if they build your confidence and improve your comfort levels.

 Also, if you tell a complete story, you are more likely to feel heard and validated. Saying a statement or two about how you feel is very different from offering a full narrative.

Be Honest and Open

A patient-doctor relationship needs to be one built on trust and communication. If you feel like the relationship is struggling in those areas, don’t be afraid to bring it up. Let your doctor know that you’re worried they aren’t communicating effectively, and explain why. Ask them to help you understand when they explain something. Tell them when you aren’t feeling heard. 

Often, doctors are so busy and so used to seeing multiple patients a day, they may not notice that they aren’t giving you the attention you need. As a woman, that can be an even bigger problem. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of stigmas and stereotypes in the medical field that can make women seem like they’re overreacting or concerned about nothing. 

Make a Change

At the end of the day, you have complete control over your medical decisions. If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor, you have the right to make a change. If you feel as though your doctor is discriminatory or not listening to your needs because you’re a woman, you should absolutely change. 

As a woman, it’s so important to feel comfortable with your physician. Part of that comfort comes from feeling heard and understood. Thankfully, nowadays there are plenty of healthcare practitioners to choose from, so don’t be afraid to look around until you find the right fit.

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