Making the Best of Your Visit to the Doctor
Last updated: December 2021
Before retirement, I worked as a registered nurse with an orthopedic surgeon. As many specialists do, we scheduled appointments every 15 minutes.
Standing outside a patient exam room, I often heard my doctor patiently explaining to a patient that he could not advise her on her heart condition. Sometimes I heard the frustration in his voice as he tried to get the patient to focus on their ortho-related complaint. Doctors respond best to patients that are prepared for their visit.
Preparing for a first visit to the doctor
Regardless of whether the doctor you are seeing is a primary care physician or a specialist, there are things that they all are likely to need. If you are seeing a specialist, you may want to ask your primary care doctor to send a referral. A referral usually contains a brief medical history and the primary reason for a visit to the specialist.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends the following:1
Take a list of your concerns with you
I use the Notes app on my iPhone to make a list of my concerns or questions. I put them in order according to priority, because the doctor may only address 2 to 3 during a visit. If you do not use a smartphone, take a legible list with you.
Take information with you
They need to know the medications that you are currently taking. They will also want to know about any chronic medical conditions you may have. You will also need your personal identification and your insurance cards.
Consider bringing a family member or friend
They should not have a strong role during the visit. The visit is between you and your doctor. Having a second pair of ears, though, can be very helpful to make sure you remember everything covered during your visit. If the doctor is making several changes to your treatment plan, ask for it to be written out for you.
Notify the doctor of any changes
If your visit is a follow-up, be sure to let your doctor know about any changes since your last visit. This is where the list I mentioned can be helpful. Writing down details of any changes you have experienced will aid your doctor.
Bring what you need to see and hear
Make sure you can see and hear as well as possible. Don’t forget to take your glasses with you and your hearing aid if you use one. Make sure that your doctor is aware of any hearing disability. Ask for an interpreter if you think you may need one.
It is important for your doctor to see you as a person. Greet the doctor by name when he comes into the room. Make eye contact to show the doctor you are interested and listening. Visit times are short, so make sure you stay on message. The list you bring to the visit will help you do so. Don’t wait until the doctor is walking out the door to ask a question.
Remember, your doctor is a person just like you are. If you treat your doctor respectfully, I think they are likely to reciprocate.
Has having dry eye helped you better advocate for yourself?