Communicating with your Health Care Providers

Information for Our Community- Tips to Save You Time & Improve Your Healthcare

Jeanne DeJoseph, PhD, CNM, FAAN, Suzanne L. Dibble, DNSc, RN, Baylee DeCastro, Nancy Milliken, MD

Steps to Communicating with your Provider:

  • Create a Body Resume
  • Use a checklist of questions to ask your provider 

Create a Body Resume

What is a Body Resume?
A Body Resume is a clear and accurate summary of your medical conditions and current medications. It is modeled after the normal sequence for a routine medical history and should be given to your health care provider or nurse. Like a resume, it's short on narrative and long on bullet points, abbreviations and dates. Your personal Body Resume will not only save you time filling out forms when see your health care provider, it can also reduce medical errors.

Why a Body Resume?
Imagine if during a job interview you were asked to verbally run down every position you’ve ever had, complete with dates locations and titles as well as your accomplishments going back to grade school. What a challenge! This is why resumes were invented. They summarize all that information in one place so that an employer can get a basic idea of the job applicant’s background. Your Body Resume, though not designed for job seeking, serves a similar purpose for your health. It’s a time saver for you and your provider that can increase the quality of your care, enabling the two of you to discuss your most important health issues in depth.

What to Include:
At the top, put your name and date of birth. The following are the basic topics for a body resume:

  • Medical History: A basic rundown of yourself- allergies, childhood diseases, history of smoking, alcohol and drug use, blood pressure, past episodes of such things as headaches gastrointestinal problems, depression or arthiritis
  • Surgical history: Anything from biopsies to brain surgery, with notations if there were healing problems or other complications.
  • Accidents: Broken bones, sports injuries and major car accidents, with dates (approximate is fine).
  • Screenings: Dates and outcomes of important lab tests, such as cholesterol or PSA (prostate-specific antigen, for men over 50). If normal, just put down WNL (health care provider's shorthand for "within normal limits"). Dates and results of mammograms, colonoscopies and Pap smears also belong here.
  • Safety History: List whether you regularly use a seat belt or helmet and have a gun and smoke detectors in your house.
  • Social history: List whether you've been a recreational drug user or addict, been alcohol-dependent, what your current relationship status is (single, partnered, and for how long), your current job and who lives in your household.
  • Exercise history: Type, length and frequency of your workouts, if any.
  • Eating History: List (if any) all medications you have used to control your diet, whether you eat a balanced diet and the weight loss plans or products you have used to loose weight.
  • Medications: List your current prescriptions and immunizations as well as any herbs, over-the-counter supplements and vitamins you take.
  • OB/GYN history: Women should include number of pregnancies, abortions, miscarriages and live births; age of first menstruation; regularity of periods; history of birth control and/or hormone replacement therapy use and other gynecological issues.
  • Family History: Try to collect information on specific medical problems, lifestyle habits, medications and allergies for each member of four generations: your children, your siblings and their children, your parents, and your grandparents (both sides). 

Create a Checklist of Questions to ask your Provider

General Health and Wellness Questions
•  How often do I need a physical exam, breast exam, pelvic exam and Pap test?
•  Do I need a flu shot or other immunizations?
•  Will changing my lifestyle (diet, exercise, smoking, drinking) help me avoid certain diseases? What can I do to be more healthy? Is there reading material or videotapes on these topics? Are there support groups or community services that can help?

Medical Test Questions
•  What will we know after the test is done?
•  How do I find out the results? How long will it take to get the results?
•  What does the test involve? What do I do to get ready for it?
•  Are there any dangers or side effects with the test?

Symptoms and Diagnosis Questions
•  Could my symptoms be caused by or related to something other than my current condition?
•  What may have caused my current condition?
•  Will it be permanent?
•  What can I do to learn more about my condition?

Treatment Questions
•  How is this condition treated or managed?
   What long-term effects will it have on my life?
•  How soon should treatment start? How long will it last?
•  Are there other treatments available?
•  How much will the treatment cost? Is it covered by insurance?
•  What are the treatment’s risks and side effects?

Medication Questions (you can also ask your pharmacist)
•  What are the side effects?
•  What should I do if I miss a dose?
•  Are there foods, drugs, or activities I should avoid while taking this medicine?
•  Is there a generic brand available at a lower price?


How  to communicate with your Health Care Provider

Ask a Doctor

Access to Care

Breast Care

Cardiac Health

Coming Out

Coming Out Tips

Complementary Care




Pelvic Exams

Hormone Replacement

Sexual Health

Substance Abuse

Weight and BMI


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