Working with clinicians

The golden rule of working with clinicians is they are busy and rely heavily on record-keeping systems to do their job.

Always keep communication with clinicians brief, focused and to-the-point. Key points of information that make it into the clinicians’ own records of a patient encounter are going to guide their treatment of the patient/client. This is why a good referral letter can be an effective way of advocating for your client’s unmet care needs.

In particular, general practitioners (GPs) diagnose and treat a huge range of health issues and may not have done training in HIV, so the information you provide (e.g. referring to GP resources, reviews of the evidence, clinical guidelines) can help them provide the best care for your client.

A clinician is allowed to communicate with you about your client’s care and treatment so long as the client has given them permission to do so. The clinician should make a written note of this permission in the client/patient’s file.

It is extremely helpful to develop a friendly working relationship with clinicians so that, when needed, and without breaching your clients’ confidentiality, you can ask for guidance on what key points to cover when advocating for your clients. For instance: ‘my client feels they might have chronic fatigue — what questions should they ask their GP?’

Despite being busy, clinicians are often incredibly generous with their time, particularly when helping to communicate with community groups about key issues relevant to HIV treatments and living with HIV. You can show respect for this contribution by providing clear and concise briefings on what to cover, and following up with a quick thank-you!