During a recent visit with my doctor, she commented that I don’t act like her other patients during visits. She said it’s obvious I have spent a lot of time with doctors because I’m not nervous and uncomfortable around her or her colleagues. She also said I’m one of the only patients who comes in with a list of topics to discuss and takes notes during visits.
I didn’t know my behavior was abnormal, but I can see how someone could not be herself around a doctor. Doctors can be intimidating, even those with amazing bedside manners. It would be easy to be anxious and/or timid around them — especially when they’re wearing those impersonal white lab coats.
At the end of the conversation with my doctor, I asked her if there was anything I could recommend to my friends and family to help them be better advocates for themselves and their health. She said it would just be nice if others did what I do. So, in a nutshell, this is what I do:
- Bring in a list of topics you want to discuss with your doctor to your visit. I usually start a list and add to it during the week before my scheduled visit.
- If you have specific ailments, bring in a log of how often you’re experiencing the symptoms and a diary of relevant data. (e.g. If your stomach hurts, a diary of food and beverages you’ve been consuming.)
- When the doctor says something confusing, immediately ask for clarification. I think doctors repeat the same advice so often that they forget it is the first time a patient is hearing it.
- Write down instructions, advice, and comments from the doctor to help you remember what was discussed. Most importantly, write down notes about any prescriptions or diagnoses.
- Call the doctor or the doctor’s nurse later if you have follow-up questions.
- If you don’t trust your doctor, interview other doctors to find one you are comfortable seeing. Call and have your files transferred to the new doctor from your old doctor.
I found this notepad pictured above from Knock Knock that I think could be useful. I don’t use something this formal, but I can see how the prompts on the notepad could really be helpful. Being organized before, during, and after a doctor visit can go a long way toward reducing the stress of the visit so you can be a good medical advocate for yourself.