Getting help when you don't know what to do about your symptoms

January 23, 2015

When you’re not feeling well, sometimes it’s hard to know where to turn. As the Nurse Navigator with Swedish Digestive Health Network, I get these calls every day.  Below are a few tips to help you advocate for yourself if you are not feeling well. (Remember to first and foremost get established with a primary care doctor before you become ill!)

1. If you’re not feeling well:

  • Make a list of your symptoms - don’t be vague. “My stomach has been upset” doesn’t tell your provider very much, be specific about what you experience including time of day and quality of pain.
  • Keep a diary of when it occurs, any unusual happenings that occur before or after the symptoms and what helps relieve the symptoms, if anything.
  • Keep a list of all the medications you take, including any and all vitamins and supplements.
  • NEVER take anyone else’s medication.
  • If your provider has an electronic medical record, sign up and use it to communicate to your provider and healthcare team.
  • If you do any research on the internet, use only vetted medical sites like WebMD or a site associated with a major university or medical center, like Swedish.
  • If you see a specialist, sometimes it helps to bring someone to take notes while you are being examined or talking with your provider.
  • Many provider offices have triage nurses – call them for questions and advice.
  • Check with your health insurance – sometimes they also have triage nurse help lines.

2. Do you have a chronic digestive problem that doesn’t seem to be improving?

It might be time to consider seeing a specialist in the Swedish Digestive Heath Network. This is a comprehensive care network with the following integrated specialty services to serve patients with a variety of concerns:

  • Colon & Rectal Surgery – fecal incontinence, fissures, fistula, hemorrhoids and more
  • Gastroenterology – GERD and esophagus disorders, Pancreatic problems, IBS, IBD, Crohns, Celiac disease, obscure bleeding
  • Pediatric Gastroenterology – IBS, IBD, Crohns in children, liver disorders, gluten intolerance, food allergies
  • Thoracic Surgery - working hand in hand with our Gastroenterology team for esophageal issues like GERD and Barrett’s Esophagus
  • Weight Loss – offers surgical and non-surgical weight loss programs for people with a variety of medical conditions
  • Hepatology Clinic –chronic liver conditions
  • Liver Surgery and Transplant – Swedish offers all liver surgeries including liver transplants
  • Medical and Radiation Oncology – cancer treatment for digestive related cancers including esophageal, gastric, pancreatic, hepatobiliary, small bowel, colorectal, neuroendocrine and anal cancer
  • Otolaryngology and the Head and Neck – digestion begins in your mouth; if you can’t swallow you can’t digest
  • General Surgery – specializing in gastric surgery using traditional approaches as well as laparoscopic and robotics for a less invasive approach to gut surgery

At Swedish, the providers within the Digestive Health Network know and understand when you are ill with a complex medical problem it can be daunting to get through any medical system to schedule visits with multiple specialty services. That is why I am here to help you. Please call me, I can help answer your questions, schedule appointments with providers and ancillary departments as well as advise you about housing while in Seattle. I want to help make your visit with our providers effective and efficient. I can be reached at 1-855-411-MyGI (6944).