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 been dismissive or judgmental towards you. You might be afraid that a doctor won’t respect you because of your gender, sexual orientation, race, or other factors. These are all real and common issues when accessing healthcare!
If you’ve had bad experiences like these before, it’s not your fault. Lots of people struggle with these things when seeking healthcare. For instance, women and people of colour statistically have a harder time getting doctors to treat their pain than white men do. Trans people sometimes face discrimination and misgendering 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 difficult. If you’re having any symptoms that are bothering you, like:
- pain that makes it hard to focus or do the things you want to do
- feeling tired all the time, even when you’ve slept a lot, or not being able to sleep at all
- anxiety, depression, anger, or other negative emotions that cause you serious distress, including 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
It might be time to see a doctor. You can also see a doctor if you’re not having symptoms, but you’re still concerned 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, including getting refills for prescriptions
- getting tested for certain things, such as STIs
Seeing a doctor is part of taking care of your health. While it’s common to want to avoid it, it’s important to know that you have to do it 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 alternative words or terms for them to use instead!
- ask your doctor to explain any procedure they might do before or as they’re doing it, so you know what’s going on and why it’s happening
- bring a loved one into the appointment with you for support, or bring a comfort object 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 is used to treating people with your condition, background, etc. It may help to ask friends and family about where and when they’ve had good experiences with doctors. Organizations like the Centre for Gender Advocacy and Project 10 may be able to help you find someone, too. This list compiled by Project 10 of queer and trans friendly health professionals could be a good start.
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
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.