Healthcare is a basic human need. Even the healthiest person in the world needs to see a doctor sometimes! Still, it can be hard to get the healthcare you need. You might have had bad experiences with doctors who don’t understand your problems. Doctors might have dismissed or judged you. You might be afraid that a doctor won’t respect you because of your gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, or something else. These are all real and common issues!
If you’ve had bad experiences before, it’s not your fault. Women and people of colour have a harder time getting doctors to treat their pain than white men do. Trans people are sometimes misgendered and discriminated against by doctors and medical institutions.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! It’s important to not give up on getting the healthcare you need. With information, support, and perseverance, you can find doctors who will help you get the care that’s right for you.
Do I REALLY need to see a doctor?
Yes, you really do!
Maybe you don’t need to see one right now, but it’s important to be able to see one when you do.
Deciding when you need to can be hard. It might be time to see a doctor if symptoms are bothering you, like:
- pain that makes it hard to focus or do the things you want to do
- not being able to sleep
- feeling tired all the time, even when you’ve slept a lot
- anxiety, depression, anger, or other strong emotions
- self-harm or thoughts of suicide
- sudden changes to your body or mood, like a rash or lump that wasn’t there before or panic attacks that start after a difficult event
You can also see a doctor if you’re not having symptoms, but you’re still worried about something health-related! You can talk to a doctor about:
- going on birth control, or other ways of having safer sex
- how to take care of your body so you’re less likely to get sick or hurt doing the things you want to do
- your family’s medical history, especially if there are health problems that run in your family
- managing any chronic health conditions you might have
- getting refills for prescriptions
- getting tested for things like STIs
Seeing a doctor is part of taking care of your health. Many people want to to avoid it, but it’s important to know that you’ll probably have to eventually.
How can I be less anxious going into a doctor’s appointment?
If you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming visit to the doctor, it may help to prepare yourself. You can do this by:
- making a list of questions you want to ask your doctor, so you don’t forget anything
- keeping track of any symptoms you might be having for a few days before your appointment
- asking a friend or loved one to take you to the appointment or sit in on the appointment to take notes and give emotional support
- making sure you have any documents you might need ready to go, like your healthcare card and a record of medications you take
When you’re at the appointment, if you’re feeling anxious, you can always:
- tell your doctor if you’re uncomfortable with specific words being used to describe parts of your body, like “penis”, “vulva”, etc. You can also suggest alternatives!
- ask your doctor to explain any procedure before or as they’re doing it, so you know what’s going on and why it’s happening
- bring someone into the appointment with you for support
- bring something comforting that helps calm you down
What can I do if my doctor won’t listen to me? What if they discriminate against me?
Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and compassion by their doctor, no matter what. If you go to see a doctor and they are dismissive, rude, or refuse to listen to you, it’s okay to find another doctor instead.
You can look for one who you know treats people with your condition, background, or other reality. It might help to ask friends and family about doctors where they’ve had good experiences.
Organizations like the Centre for Gender Advocacy and Project 10 may be able to help you find someone. A list of queer and trans friendly health professionals could be a good start.
What are my rights as a patient?
It can help to know that you have certain legally protected rights as a patient. You have the right to:
- Accurate information about your health, any medications prescribed to you, and any procedures your doctor recommends
- Continuous access to healthcare
- A safe clinic or hospital environment
- The ability to make informed choices about your own healthcare, for example requesting or refusing specific treatments
- Respect and courtesy from healthcare providers
Can I report someone?
If a doctor does not respect your rights, they can be disciplined or even lose their license. You can report doctors, pharmacists, hospitals, and clinics (as well as other healthcare practitioners or institutions) to:
- The Service Quality And Complaints Commissioner
- The Quebec Ombudsman
- Organizations responsible for maintaining training and care standards for healthcare professionals, like the Quebec College of Physicians or the Quebec College of Psychologists
The federation of complaint assistance and support centres, or CAAP, can help you through the complaint process. They have regional branches all over Quebec. In Montreal, you can reach them at 514 861-5998.