5 “Must Ask” Questions about Your Prescription

When you are handed a prescription by your physician or your pharmacist there are many questions you should know the answer to before walking out the door. Below I highlight my top five.

CC Flickr Shared by Rob!

  1. What is this medication for?

This may seem obvious, but countless times when I ask a patient if they know what their prescription is for they tell me they have no idea.  When someone doesn’t know what a medication is for, there is little motivation to take it correctly or even at all.  Most drugs have more than one indicated use.  Know what yours are being used for.

2. What will happen if I don’t take this medication?

This may seem a strange question, but the reality is that over 50% of medication prescribed is either taken incorrectly or not at all.  (Health professionals are a little vain- we tend to think if we prescribe it, you will take it.) If you don’t take your high blood pressure medication, you have a higher chance of having a heart attack or damaging your kidneys.  If you don’t take an antibiotic for a nasty cold…well, really nothing is going to happen because antibiotics do not work for colds.  There are many prescriptions that are unnecessary or could be avoided with “watchful waiting” and there are some prescriptions that can be deadly if you do not take them exactly as prescribed.

3.  When can I expect this medication to work for me?

An important piece of information.  Will it treat my problem/condition in an hour or in 2 months?  Knowing what to expect is essential.  Someone being treated for clinical depression needs to know that the medication they are getting may not start to work for 2 to 6 weeks.  That’s a long time if you are expecting to feel better tomorrow.  Equally important is a person in acute pain to know that the pain medication should start working in an hour or so.  If not, it may need to be adjusted.  And if after 3 days of antibiotics your skin infection is spreading, don’t wait for the ten days of pills to be over.  You need to be reassessed right away. Know what to expect and always ask questions if you are unsure.

4.  What do I do if I have a problem with this medication?

Not all problems or side effects require another appointment.  Many issues can be solved by tweaking the dose, timing, formulation or way of taking the medication.  Sometimes a change of medication is necessary.  Find out what some of the common problems or side effects of your medication are and what you can do about them if they happen.

5.  Can I take this medication with all my other medications?

I find that most patients will ask me about this.  What is often missed though are the non-prescription medications, vitamins or herbal products they are taking.  Patients tend not to mention these as they are often viewed as “safe” and not harmful.  But in fact, there are many vitamins and “natural” products that can interact with prescription medications.  It is important to mention them all.

We all know it is impossible to remember everything your doctor or pharmacist tells you.  And that is where follow-up and communication comes in.  When I see a patient I advise them of any follow-up that is needed or how to reach me for questions. Typically by phone or email, but for more complicated learning I’ll see the patient in the office. Whether your nurse, pharmacist or physician provides you with your prescription, ensure you receive proper follow-up and educate yourself.  You are the person with the most vested interest in your own health.

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Balancing the Scales…or Not

A friend of mine sent me pictures today, taken at my 40th birthday party.  Yup, I turned 40.  And while that could be a post unto itself (many who know me are no doubt nodding their heads, remembering all the complaining leading up to that number!) what I really thought about when I saw the pictures was the relationships with the people who came out on a very stormy night to help me celebrate.

A very eclectic group shared the transition with me.  My spouse who pulled off the grand affair without me knowing, friends who’ve known me for years, people I’ve only known a short while, family, hockey parents with whom I’ve sat many hours in cold arenas with, staff who’ve run the gauntlet with me, and teachers who’ve taught my children and become great friends.

It’s to the last that I thought about today.  These educators who I’ve worked alongside with, who I’ve learned so much from, yet who have treated me as a peer.  We’ve had a unique relationship being co-educators of my children.  It has been unbelievably valuable not just for my boys, but for me, to be involved in this type of educational structure.

That night they had a presentation for me which included putting on the screen a quote from a blog post I wrote for the school division.  (I hadn’t posted it on my personal blog until today.)  And they asked me to read it aloud to everyone there:

I take my personal learning quite seriously: connecting to other educators on twitter, reading widely and often debating both Education philosophy and practice. But if I am honest, I have learned the most about education from my sons, and have incorporated those lessons into my own learning. Following my own passion in both Education and Health Care has made me a better practitioner in both areas.  Thank you boys.

Reading the words I had written only a few months ago, out loud to a room full of people I care about,  was surprisingly emotional for me.

Seeing the pictures today reminded me of why I keep walking the tricky balance between two disciplines I love (Education and Health Care).  I say tricky because it is sometimes impossible to find a balance;  the scale tips one way or the other.

As I’ve branched out and become more engaged in my professional life I know it has put strain on lesson planning time, time with my kids and my personal life.  And vice versa, when things get busy with teaching my boys and we’re digging into some great learning, my professional time slides and I can’t devote as much to patient care.

There are some days I think it would be easier to reduce the focus and drop one.  And I know this is an ancient struggle, especially for working parents, but today I was reminded why I do it…. and that it is worth it.

Letting Go = Learning

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by aronski

“The Roman Colosseum! That’s what I want to learn about next Mom!”  The night before the first day back to school…. I had no plans ready for this request.  Actually, my mind was filled with work and I wasn’t feeling particularly creative.  This wasn’t sounding good.

My son Noah, in Grade three with the Stony Creek Program, loves ancient history and mythology. His Language Arts projects are infused with his passion and he is fortunate to be in a school program that allows for such individualized learning.

While I have always tried to follow my boys’ interests in the home schooling portion of their program, I will admit that I can be all about just “getting it done.”  With limited time to accomplish school work in a day I sometimes lack patience with the “space” needed for creativity.

This year, however, Noah has taught me something valuable: learning happens much more readily and becomes integrated, retained and built upon when we incorporate his interests.  For me that requires a certain letting go.  Letting go of my ideas, expectations and time lines for learning.

For instance, when I suggested Noah blog about his learning of ancient nomads he decided instead to draw then build a model of an irrigation system ancient people could have used. (And yes, later blogged about it). Not what I had in mind (and took WAY longer than I had planned for! ) but what great learning. 

When we worked on story writing, I had planned activities appropriate for Grade 3. He had his own ideas which resulted in his writing a”chapter book”  (incorporating Greek mythology of course!) He learned way more about writing, editing and word processing doing it his way than he would have with my plans.

I take my personal learning quite seriously: connecting to other educators on twitter, reading widely and often debating both Education philosophy and practice. But if I am honest, I have learned the most about education from my sons, and have incorporated those lessons into my own learning. Following my own passion in both education and health care has made me a better practitioner in both areas.  Thank you boys.

*This post was originally published at 184 Days of Learning