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I have regular appointments with nurses and doctors due to a long term but not serious health condition. It's often a new doctor or nurse I see each time so I have to try to judge how best to communicate with each new person.

I'm not a doctor myself, but a data analyst and I've been involved in several research studies and helped to publish two peer reviewed papers on the topic of neutrophil counts. I have a very good understanding of neutrophil counts and other blood test results.

At these appointments I always ask what my neutrophil count was and sometimes other results. Obviously since I've been involved in such thorough research of this topic in the past, I have an immense interest in knowing what my own neutrophil count is, even if it's normal, I just want to know what's going on in my body. It's not really that I'm worried about it, or that I don't trust the doctors, I'm just basically a geek and the value matters to me.

The question is usually just brushed off with a response like "Don't worry it was normal", if I press further and ask "please tell me the number" it may be brushed off again or come across as rude. I've also been told "We don't usually tell people that because only a doctor would understand it".

One method might be to say: "I've worked on several research studies on neutrophil counts, so it's okay, you can tell me the number" But that may come across as immodest and patronising.

How can I ask to just tell me the number without seeming forceful or rude? I don't know if it helps to bring up my past experience or even if there's a way of doing so without seeming immodest or arrogant.

A note on legality or regulations, it's perfectly legal in my country to tell a patient the full details of their blood test results. The hesitation isn't due to regulations.

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    Is this number actually relevant in relation to the condition you’re seeing these people for? – AsheraH Feb 25 at 6:13
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    Do these nurses and doctors do small talk when you meet them, like asking you a bit about how your life is going in general? Or do they always have a laser-like focus on giving you the results of your tests, an update on your condition, and send you away again so they can see the next patient? – Tinkeringbell Feb 25 at 7:01
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    In all countries I know, doctors or labs must give you a copy of the results. Don't they give it to you? And you could then check this data, either right away, or after you leave? Or do you just want an answer right away? – OldPadawan Feb 25 at 7:54
  • @AsheraH: Yes the number is relevant to my condition and health in general. – Karl Feb 25 at 7:59
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    @Tinkeringbell: The meetings are mostly for an update on my condition. I'm sometimes able to have small talk with them if I'm the one who initiates it, but I see a different person every time and my social skills aren't the best, so I can't really rely on that as a method. – Karl Feb 25 at 8:03
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While it may indeed be seen as rather rude to keep insisting after having been brushed off a few times, I think you could improve your initial request to make the chances of getting an answer slightly bigger.

Instead of just asking for the numbers, also explain your reason for asking before the actual question. In your case, the reason would be that you have some professional curiosity regarding those numbers. There's nothing wrong with mentioning that you work with/research these numbers, and as such are curious what your own, exact, values are, then asking if they could share those with you:

  • By explaining a bit more about why you're asking, you're giving recognition to the fact that your request may be slightly unusual, but you're also offering up a circumstance that may make the request less weird. This may decrease the chances of people wanting to brush you off or deny giving you the exact values.
  • By making this a preface to the request, you can avoid the immodest or arrogant "who do you think you're talking to" vibe you could give off when only throwing in your professional experience once the question has been brushed off.
  • By asking if they could share, there's still the option for them to say they can't, which would avoid a big part of being seen as rude or pushy. Even when there's no real reason to expect a 'no', leaving the possibility open is just seen as polite.

If you can make your request in such a way that it uses specific medical terms, it's also a good sign to any person you're talking with that you have more knowledge than the average Joe on this topic.

The approach has worked very well for me in the past, I like adding a short reason for asking when I suspect the requests I may be making of others may seem unusual. It both boosts my confidence while asking, and I usually seem to get the answers I was looking for. This can go from something simple like requesting stuff at a discount for a charity cause, to getting people to answer more technical questions.

For example, when I see someone working on the electrical grid, I like to go over and ask questions. But I do preface those with saying that I work for a large grid operator too, and I use some of the technical language we share in my questions. That shows the person I'm talking with that I (to an extent) understand their jargon and gives them a baseline to work with.

It might not always work, you might still be told 'all was normal' or encounter people that are uncomfortable sharing specific numbers. Like you said in the comments, there's a whole procedure you are normally to go through to get those numbers, and a hospital may be more bound to those rules than the random people I've interacted with. But there's no harm in trying, there should be little perceived rudeness for just the attempt.

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    I've never gotten a 'no' as an answer and I don't think I would because it's not against any rules to tell me the numbers. The problem is more that they try to sidestep the question or "dumb down" the answer, which is perfectly understandable because most people wouldn't understand the detail I'm asking for, but I struggle with how to tell them that I will understand the technical detail because of xyz experience without coming across like I think I'm "a know it all". – Karl Feb 25 at 11:10
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    The answer is helpful but could you give some more specific advice on how to word the part where I make a reference to my previous experience. It's that part which really takes a knack and can really change the tone of the conversation with only a slight difference in wording. – Karl Feb 25 at 11:12
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    @Karl I've edited in one more thing you could do with regards to 'how to word it', and edited some parts that were focusing on getting an answer that wasn't 'no'. I hope it helps! Do note that I can't tell you exactly what to say: such questions are off-topic. You can read more about that on our help center page :) – Tinkeringbell Feb 25 at 12:23

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