How to Get the Most from Your Doctor’s Visit
Has this ever happened to you? You make an appointment for a health concern. You prepare for your appointment, you wait a long time in the waiting room, your name is called and you are brought into the office for another long wait. The doctor comes in and begins to try to identify your concern. At the moment you start to explain your concern, the doctor starts asking questions. At this point you are redirected to giving answers to the questions. He gives you instructions and you leave, when suddenly you realize that the concerns you came in about have not been addressed and now you have orders for a test or medication that may be unrelated to what you went there for in the first place. Furthermore, you may not even understand why the order was given.
In my experience as a registered nurse, I have learned that doctors speak a completely different language than the general public. I can’t even count how many times I have attended a physician appointment or stood at the bedside in the hospital where the doctor explains what the issues are and what the direction of care is and, when he or she leaves, the patient has a perplexed look. Taking the cue, I break down each issue and the patient says to me, “Well why didn’t he (she) just say so?”. My answer has always been, “That’s why God made nurses”.
That being said, let me explain how you can get the most out of your doctor appointment. First, understand that physicians are trained to look at the facts and analyze the problem. They are inundated with side information that may or may not pertain to the problem as they see it. The brilliance in their job is to identify (diagnose), rule out (test), and, by process of elimination, they fix it (order treatments). We want them to do that. So, how can we partner with the doctor to get the most streamlined care?
Take the lead. Remember your healthcare provider works for you. If you were not a patient the doctors would not have a job. Some people are intimidated by their providers.
Write it down. Don’t think you will remember what you wanted to say while you are shuffled along and questions are being asked.
Stick to the issue. Try to avoid lengthy explanations and keep your words limited. Doctors are quick on the facts, but you will lose their attention if you explain every detail about your situation. An example would be that you are concerned you may have heart burn so you explain everything you ate for the last two weeks in great detail when really all that is needed is to say, “Doctor, I have been feeling a burning sensation in my throat”. Let doctors ask the questions to get to the bottom of it.
Stop and ask to repeat. It is okay to stop the doctors and have them repeat instructions. Sometimes the doctors will explain things in a clinical way. Stop the conversation and have him or her repeat or rephrase it until you understand.
Try to bring someone with you. Having a second person there can help pick up information you may have missed.
Ask the nurse for help. Nurses are there for you. Nurses understand that the doctor may not have explained in a way you may understand.
Communicating with the healthcare team can help to streamline tests and treatments and prevent medical errors. Having a notebook to keep important information in for you to keep track of your daily health and it is also helpful for your physician to guide your care. Be sure to include an updated medication list and all follow up care such as a blood pressure or blood sugar logs. If you need help