At some point, visiting the doctor is unavoidable when living with a chronic illness. Whether it’s for testing, confirming a new diagnosis, creating a treatment plan, or even just medication refills. We’ve all been there at some point or another, anxiously sitting on the examination table waiting for what feels like an eternity, and when the doctor finally comes in it’s hard to comprehend anything he is saying as a cascade of complex words and expressions start whizzing by you at lightning speed. It seems as soon as the door opened, it closes again and the doctor is already on to his next patient. By the time you leave the office your head is spinning and you’re often left thinking, “What the heck just happened?!”
Sound familiar? Let me tell you, I got so tired of this happening to me over and over again. Every time I went to the doctor I felt like I ended up leaving with more questions than answers and feeling defeated. So, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way to make the most of appointments and stop feeling defeated!
Let me start by saying, doctors are not evil! They are here to help us! However, there are some truths about the medical care system that we can’t change. So, we just have to find a way to make them for us.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Doctor’s Visit
Have a Goal: I find it helpful to have a goal in mind for the appointment. This helps direct the conversation and ensure you are getting all of the information you need and want. For example, if the purpose of an appointment is to go over recent test results, a possible goal would be to leave feeling that you know everything you need to know about the new diagnosis and treatment options.
Prepare: The truth is, our doctor’s time is limited and they have A LOT of people to see in a day. So, it’s important to make the most of the time we’ve got and we do this by being prepared! Most of the time, we know what our appointment is going to be about, so prepare any questions you have ahead of time. Don’t expect to be able to think of thoughtful and important questions when you are rushed for time and trying to absorb new, complex information!
Write It Down: Bring a notebook with your questions written down for you to reference. This allows you to write down anything the doctor says that is important or sounds unfamiliar. In my experience, my doctors say everything that needs to be said first, and then ask for questions at the end. In the past, I would just smile and say “no”, because my brain was still reeling from information overload. Now, I scribble down anything that sounds foreign while I am listening to what the doctor is saying. So, when they ask, “Any questions?” I can immediately refer back to my chicken scratch and ask for clarification.
Bring Someone With You: It is also good to have an extra set of ears. An additional person may pick up on things that you missed or ask questions that you never thought of before. They may also better retain the information presented, so you can ask them questions about the appointment afterwards to make sure you didn’t miss anything. The only thing I remember from the day I was diagnosed was waking up from my colonoscopy and having the doctor shove papers in my hands. Thankfully my mom was with me, because I have zero recollection of then sitting in the doctor’s office for 30 minutes while he told me about Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). If you do bring someone with you, it is important that you brief them on your goals for the appointment so you are both on the same page and they do not accidentally derail the visit by asking questions you don’t want to be asked or taking it in a different direction.