Simple tips for brain and spinal cord injury, illness, injury, aging, children, adults, everyone … Questions to ask your healthcare professionals

07 Jun

When you come across health issues there are a number of questions you and your advocate need to ask.  It’s difficult to know what questions to ask when your world is turned upside down and you are not familiar with healthcare systems. Either the patient or the advocate, or both should ask these questions.

The best outcome to all health issues is dependent on the educated patients and advocates. Asking the following questions will help you take control, eliminate some stress and struggles with healthcare and focus on ones optimal level of functioning.  This is a comprehensive but not all inclusive list of questions to ask your healthcare provider.

If you are visiting a friend or relative at the hospital or someone undergoing procedures take this list and help them plan for their best recovery.  Encourage to ask questions and write down the answers. Take detailed notes so you can refer to written answers when less stressed with fewer distractions. You are not expected to remember everything, that’s why there is paper and pens.

It is common when patients and families are overwhelmed to forget answers or conversations simply because they are overwhelmed with immense amount of new information. It’s also a difficult time to know what questions to ask.  The following is a list of general questions that pertain to the majority of people.  You can add or delete questions accordingly.

For my general health … 

  • How should I expect to be feeling over the next several days? Weeks?


  •  What are signs and symptoms of complications I need to be aware of?
  • How often or what is the frequency of these complications in others with these same problems?

Pain & Pain Medications 

  • What should I do if I experience pain?
  • What type or kind of pain medication should one take?


  • Am I to continue taking the same medications?
  • Are there any additional medications I will need to take?
  • What does each medication do?

 Wound Care-Injuries

  • Explain how to take care of sores, burns, incisions, and injuries.
  • Do I need to have stitches removed?  When?
  • How do I take care of my cast, splint, and wound dressings?
  • Should I avoid getting it wet? What should I do if I accidentally get it wet?
  • Is there anyone who can check on my progress to make sure I’m doing it right?


  •  Can I take a bath?
  • Can I shower?
  • How long do I need to wait?


  • What type of physical activity should I start off doing immediately after hospitalization to help with a quick recovery?
  • What types of activity should I avoid?
  • If you are not sure what activities to avoid or engage in, who should I ask?

Physical fitness

  • When should I anticipate returning to my “normal” fitness routine?
  • When can I expect to Run a marathon? Ride a bike? Rollerblade? Swim? Walk? Football? Basketball? Cheerleading?
  • When can I return to a fitness club?
  • When should I expect to safely use a hot tub? Pool?


  • How much rest, naps, and sleep should I anticipate I would need in the recovery phase?


  •  Are there any specific dietary restrictions?
  • What foods should I limit?
  • What foods should I avoid?
  • What foods will help recovery?
  • Let them know if you are unable to prepare for your own nutritional needs and do not have help.

Habits (Alcohol, Smoking, Recreational Drugs)

  • How does  ___________  interfere with healing?
  • How does ____________ interfere with medications?
  • How does ____________ interfere with overall recovery?

Work and/or School

  • When can I return to school or work?
  • Can I return to work-school on “full-time” status or gradually increase number of work-school hours?
  • Can I return to work on “light duty”?
  • What types of restrictions will I need for work-school?
  • How long should I expect before my body would be back to handle a “normal routine”?

Sexual activity

  • When can I engage in sexual relationships?


  • When should I expect to drive again?
  • When can I safely ride my motorcycle?


  • Will I need any outpatient therapies?
  • What type of therapies?
  • How often and how long should I anticipate the therapies?
  • What type of response is expected from the therapies?
  • Who will schedule these therapies?

 Essential information

  •  Tell them if transportation is a problem or you are homebound that might cause poor attendance or inability to attend therapies.

Who to contact

  • If I have any further generalized questions who is the best person to contact?
  • When is best time and days to contact them?
  • What is the telephone number I can reach them at?
  • If I suspect any complications or other urgent problems who is the best person to contact?
  • What do I need to say or do to expedite my call when it’s urgent?
  • What should I do if that person is not available or my request isn’t taken seriously?

Follow-up testing

  • Will there be any further tests?
  • When shall these tests be performed?
  • Will they need repeated? How frequently?
  • Who will be comparing my previous test results?
  • Where should I have these tests done?
  • How will they be scheduled?

Follow-up appointments

  • Who do I see for a follow up appointment?
  • When shall I plan my appointment?
  • Will there be a series of appointments and how frequent shall I expect follow-up visits?
  • Where or what office location?
  • How will they be scheduled?

It’s okay you don’t know, but …Who to ask

  • Everyone has their own speciality but I don’t expect you to know everything.
  • Who would be the best person to ask?

Remember, you can usually tape record your questions and answers but as a courtesy you want to check with the professional. Your healthcare professional wants you to take control of your health and questions are always welcome.  If your provider does not want you to tape record, respect that decision and request the time it takes to have all your questions answers and time to take notes.

You might need to make an appointment for “consultation” so the healthcare professionals will allow for appropriate time.  You need the answers!  The answers are the key to your health and ultimately your life.  You need to hold the key to your health.  Time is frequently limited therefore you might need to ask these questions in phases or with different healthcare professionals working with you.  No matter who you ask, you need all the answers.

***If you have any additional questions or topics to add to this list your feedback is appreciated and welcome.

**********All material presented on Brain Injury Self Rehabilitation (BISR) is copyright and cannot be, copied, reproduced, or distributed in any way without the express, written consent of Edith E. Flickinger, BSN RN. 


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5 responses to “Simple tips for brain and spinal cord injury, illness, injury, aging, children, adults, everyone … Questions to ask your healthcare professionals

  1. behindthemaskofabuse

    June 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    A couple times in the past with my doc, when I booked I would tell them i need extra time or a double appointment. Some docs might not do this, mine at the time was great with that. This is a very helpful list! 🙂

  2. annesquared

    June 9, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Excellent list to work with.


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