Talking to Your Doctor

Find guidance for speaking with your doctor about meningitis prevention and vaccines.

Bacterial meningitis is a rare, but potentially catastrophic infection, and it takes all of us to keep our communities safe from its effects. Along with medical professionals, you have a part to play in protecting yourself and your family.

Of course, this requires having the right information so you can make the best decisions regarding your healthcare. This requires clear communication with your health care provider—whether it's a physician, certified nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant. 

We recognize that being open with your doctor can be difficult, and that visits to the doctor’s office can be stressful. But this doesn’t need to be the case. Below you will learn ways to make talking to your doctor a productive process and ensure you receive the care you need. 

Come prepared with what you’d like to discuss

Most doctor’s visits only last for 15-20 minutes, so it’s important to make the most of the time that is available to you. One way of ensuring this is by writing down a list of questions and concerns and bringing it along to your appointment. This will help keep you on track and remind you of something you might forget.

If you think you might need support, consider bringing a close friend or family member to your appointment as well. They can offer emotional support, or even ask your doctor questions that you haven’t thought of yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions

The internet is an incredible source of information, so it makes sense that many people use web-based tools to research symptoms and learn about different illnesses, including meningitis. 

At the same time, there is the risk of misinformation from less reputable sources, and it can be difficult to separate good information from the bad. This is an issue especially around the topic of vaccines.

It's important then to be an active participant in your care and ask questions of your doctor if you are not sure about something. It’s their job to answer whatever question you may have, no matter how small or silly it may seem, and to be direct in discussing the best options for your care.

To be clear: all the vaccines against bacterial meningitis are effective in preventing disease and are very safe. 

Learn more about vaccines

Be honest about your concerns

Communicating how you feel while talking to your doctor is important. Doctors can only offer advice or information when they know all the facts. 

For example, if you are concerned about close contacts and transmission of bacterial meningitis because of your living situation, you need to be up front about those details. Your doctor only knows what you tell them and can only provide the best advice when given all the facts. 

A critical part of the conversation is saying to the doctor, ‘I understand that all treatments have risks and benefits. Can you help me compare these to other treatments?’
Debra Roter, Dr.P.H.