You’re at the doctor’s office, feeling miserable and wondering what in the world you’ve picked up from your kids. So the doctor comes in, checks you out, asks some questions and after what feels like 30 seconds you’re walking out the door. And as you drive home, you realize you didn’t mention about five things you’ve been concerned about. Now what?
It really wasn’t 30 seconds but it is a limited amount of time. Physicians typically have about 15 minutes per appointment. The key to making the most out of your 15 minutes with the doctor is to be prepared. Writing down your questions or symptoms before the appointment will help you remember everything you wanted to go over, and having someone with you to either jot down the answers (or at least help you remember them!) is also a good idea. When you’re going over your concerns, if you don’t understand the answers, make sure you say so. If the doctor can’t go over it more in depth with you, he or she can ask the nurse to help. Remember, if you don’t let physicians know you don’t understand something – they’ll assume you do. And if you do have questions after you leave the office, be sure and leave a message for the doctor or nurse to call you back.
Most of us worry about wasting the doctor’s time by listing everything that’s been going on with us. That maybe some of what we’ve been feeling isn’t related to the main reason we’ve come to see the doctor today. Don’t worry! They’ll be able to weed out what isn’t relevant to the visit. Giving them too much information is better than not enough. Another really important step in being prepared for your visit is to bring every medicine you take – whether it’s vitamins, supplements, over-the-counter or prescription medications. Or at least bring a list of everything that includes how much you take and when you take it.
Your physician really does want to work with you to help you feel better again, but it takes both of you. Physicians are prepared through education and experience; they need you to be prepared with your questions, symptoms and medications.
So what’s the bottom line? Communicate!
- Write down your questions or symptoms before the appointment
- Write down the answers the doctor provided
- If you don’t understand – ask for clarification
- If you remember something later – call back
Following the appointment, your job is to:
- follow your physician’s instructions
- take all medications as prescribed
- let the doctor’s office know immediately if you are having any reactions to the medication or you are feeling worse
- call if you were supposed to receive results to any tests that were done.
Even if you don’t get sick very often, it’s still important to have a good relationship with your physician. Regular checkups can help prevent a chronic illness later in life. Use your 15 minutes wisely!