Talking to your healthcare team

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teen girl talking to doctor

Generally speaking, everything that you ask and tell the people on your healthcare team is confidential. This means that the information is private and is not shared with anyone without your permission.

However, doctors are sometimes legally required to report your conversation, for example if they think you are at serious risk of harming yourself or someone else. Confidentiality laws vary slightly by province, so it's important to ask your doctor what rules apply in your case.

How much should I share with my healthcare team?

Your healthcare team will ask you many questions about how you are feeling physically and emotionally. It’s important to be honest with them – your doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists and other team members – about any problems you are having. These problems could be physical symptoms caused by your pain or treatment or they could relate to your feelings or thoughts. Your team needs to know how you are really dealing with pain and your treatment and how it is affecting your life so they can help you find the best solutions.

It is also very important that your healthcare team hear your questions and have the opportunity to share accurate information with you. You may have questions about topics that are tough to talk about, such as relationships, sexual activity, mental health issues or use of recreational drugs such as alcohol. Sometimes you might need to talk about something that you find embarrassing, but try your best not to feel embarrassed. These are important things to discuss if you have questions. Your healthcare team can be a good source of helpful answers. Remember, they have talked about these topics with many other people before!

Who can I talk to about more private topics?

Sometimes it is easier to talk to your healthcare team about difficult feelings than it is to talk to your parent(s) or partner, and that’s okay. During their treatment, most young people say that they found one person on their healthcare team whom they felt more comfortable talking to about their thoughts and feelings. If you would like to talk to a particular person, always feel free to ask for them specifically.

What if my team can't answer my questions?

Pain treatment often comes with some uncertainty. For many pain conditions, the cause may never be known. But that does not mean that the pain cannot be treated effectively.

There may be times when your doctors and nurses cannot answer your questions. Many people find it difficult to cope with some of these ‘unknowns’ or unanswered questions. If uncertainty about your pain is affecting your mood or causing you to be worried or fearful, please be sure to talk to a member of your healthcare team.

Last updated: May 2nd 2016