By Krystina –
Navigating medical care when you are unwell can be daunting and difficult. In most cases, you will have waited for so long for an appointment, that the anxiety and prospect of finally getting help can be overwhelming. If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up forgetting the things you wanted to say, maybe get more emotional than you intended, leaving you feeling upset, embarrassed, and a little lost.
Feeling like a medical professional and not understanding what you’re trying to say can wind up feeling downright dismissive. As someone who has worked in healthcare, I understand how decisions are made, and as a patient, I understand exactly how it feels to not be heard.
That’s why I’ve gathered a list of the things I have learned, and that others have taught me when dealing with doctors…
1. You Are Not Alone.
Everyone I have spoken to about dealing with their medical care has felt the same way on more than one occasion. I have heard countless stories of patients not getting what they wanted out of an appointment.
The best thing I have done for my own health has been to seek out others in similar positions. If you’re reading this, then you’re already on the right track. The internet is full of wonderful people sharing their experiences, and who are more than happy to talk. You can get some invaluable advice and tips from others who have gone through similar things. NB – Try the waiting room!
2. They Will Tell You When To Leave.
I’ve felt that pressure of a ticking clock during an appointment many times, which has only added to the pressure of making sure I’m understood. But, when you see that doctor checking their watch, don’t read into it. They might just be checking for the notes they are writing.
Medical professionals work in a minute-to -minute environment, where everything should be accounted for. Sure, someone checking their watch while you tell them your life story can be off putting, but you should just ignore it and concentrate on what you want to say. Don’t worry, they will let you know when the appointment is over.
3. Make A Plan.
It’s a good idea to make a plan for the day, especially if you are unwell, or if it’s a big appointment. Do you have a busy day beforehand? Do you have to be somewhere after? Can you re-schedule?
Think about what this appointment is for – it’s probably no use telling the ear, nose and throat specialist about your bowel problems – so make sure you get the most out of the practitioner you’re seeing. What do you hope to get out of the appointment? Making a plan can ensure your focus is in the right place, resulting in the best care for you.
4. Write A List.
This is a good idea for any and all appointments. I’m sure we’ve all felt the absolute frustration of forgetting something we’ve been meaning to ask. That’s why you should make a list. Whether it be symptoms, dates of flare ups or questions about care, be sure to make a list and take it with you on the day.
Not only will it will save you fumbling around for questions, but it will ensure you get through the whole list, asking everything you intended, especially if you’ve made it in plenty of time.
5. Arrive In Plenty Of Time.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s important. Don’t worry if you think you’re going to get there too early, it means you’ll have plenty of time to follow directions, have a little rest, eat a snack, and gather your thoughts. Especially if you are unwell, or have never visited the location before, arriving in plenty of time can only lead to reduced anxiety.
6. Take Someone With You.
Ask a trusted friend or family member to accompany you to your appointment. Having someone with you can be essential, they can fill you in on the things you might have missed whilst being anxious, like exactly what did that doctor say when I asked ____?
If they can get you there, that will save you the anxiety of not just the appointment, but the journey too. Plus, if you’re anxious, having someone to distract you can be just the thing you need to stay calm.
7. Make Copies.
This is something I’ve learned through visiting many different practitioners. If you have any previous diagnosis letters, letters from doctors or test results, take them along, and make copies. That way, instead of relaying the information haphazardly, you can give them a copy of the exact information with all of the details of that professional on it, which they can place directly in your file.
This saves time explaining, which leaves more room for talking about your immediate issues. It also saves your medical team requesting the information, and getting a copy for themselves, which saves time in your overall treatment.
8. Take Along Evidence.
If you keep any kind of diary or notebook which includes information like progress of your symptoms or a pain diary, make sure you take it with you. Not only does it help with that inevitable moment you draw a blank, but you can hand it to your doctor to see the proof for themselves. Photos and even video of certain aspects of your condition can be invaluable to a doctor, who may only see you when you’re at your best.
9. Wear Comfortable Clothes.
You never know what you might have to do. Sometimes you may have to stretch or lie down for a physical, so wear shoes that can be easily removed and replaced, anything that saves time leaves you more talking time with your doctor, and they’ll thank you for it. It’s important to wear comfortable clothes so you are ready for anything, be it a scan, examination or a procedure.
10. Take A Snack.
Waiting times can be long, and if you’re anxious, you’ll be burning more energy. Don’t get light headed with stress, take a snack! A sandwich, piece of fruit, or bag of cereal can do wonders for a nervous tummy, especially after you leave the doctor’s office, you can feel depleted and tired. Don’t forget a drink too!
Bonus Tip! Do Your Research.
If you’re up to it you can do some research and find out who your doctor is. Are they the best option for you? What are other patients experiences with this doctor? What are the treatments available? Doing a little research can save time asking questions about treatments that are easily answered by a google search. Make sure you don’t research off course too much, as you can end up self-diagnosing, which isn’t always the best idea!