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It’s tempting to come online and show myself in the most positive light possible. I’m going to completely kill that temptation today and admit that I’ve been a “problem patient.” Seriously. I can think of a couple of providers who probably hate me. It’s not that I’m not totally likable (I am!!!). The problem is that I haven’t always made their job easy. But I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’m going to teach you how to get the most out of your doctor visit!
If you have plans to see your doctor soon, perhaps you’re already thinking about what the diagnosis is going to be and what medication might be prescribed. While it’s only natural to mull over your upcoming appointment, there are a few things you can do now that will actually help you make this doctor visit as successful as possible. And keep that doctor-patient relationship healthy!
Here’s a list of things you should be doing to prepare for your appointment.
Basic doctor visit preparation
There’s one common thing that everybody, regardless of their gender or health, needs to do before going to a medical appointment: write down their medical history!
You need this medical history, even if you think it’s too short and simple. Be sure to include major illnesses, chronic conditions, all surgeries and their approximate date, a list of any removed body parts (tonsils, gallbladder, appendix, finger, etc.), and any of your allergies. You also want to include a list of medications you’re taking which includes prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine, and supplements. Don’t forget to add your family’s major medical history such as heart conditions, diabetes, or genetic diseases.
Now fold up this page and keep it with your insurance card. It just makes sense to keep this with you so you’ll always have it, even if this coming appointment won’t be your first time to see this particular doctor.
List your concerns
Just to make sure you don’t forget anything, go ahead and write out a list of concerns you want to discuss with the doctor at this visit.
This isn’t the time to document every ache and twinge you’ve experienced in the last couple of years. We’re not trying to solve the great mystery of your anatomy, and we definitely don’t want to overwhelm your doctor.
We do want to end up with a brief, concise list of your major concerns as they pertain to this particular appointment. So if’ you’re seeing the doctor for a sleep problem, definitely ask the question about your caffeine intake. And hold off on the question about the numbness in your toe.
If you have a symptom that you’re not sure about, ask your doctor if it could be relevant – but be open to scheduling another appointment if it’s an unrelated issue.
Do your research
The internet can be an awesome tool for gathering information. It can also be incredibly unreliable and send you off on a wild goose chase! Resist the urge to use the internet as your doctor and keep in mind that your real doctor is being paid to diagnose and treat you. Let him earn his keep!
Look at your symptoms and get an idea of what could be wrong and how such an issue would be treated, including any kind of therapies that don’t include medicine.
But please don’t get attached to a specific diagnosis or treatment. (I’m guilty of this!!) Your doctor may very well have other ideas and, as much as it pains me to say it, medical providers do have more expertise than the average person. 🙂
You know your body. They know medicine. Work together!!
Talk to your other providers
Two wonderful resources for nursing mothers are the obstetrician and the pediatrician. After you have an idea of what your diagnosis could be, use these resources!
Obstetrician – Call them up and ask what’s the safest treatment for nursing mothers. Your OB is very familiar with a nursing mom’s needs regarding safety AND milk supply.
Pediatrician – let your pediatrician know that you may soon be taking medication for a certain issue and ask if there’s a medicine they recommend. Also, ask if there are any drugs for that issue which would interact with any prescription your baby takes. Your pediatrician is an excellent resource when it comes to the safety of your baby.
Have realistic expectations
Remember how I said we’re not trying to solve the great mystery of your anatomy? I’m sure you want to know WHY you’re experiencing these symptoms. The truth is unless there’s good reason to believe that an awful illness is causing your symptoms, your provider probably isn’t going to search for the cause.
Most doctors simply don’t have the time (or inclination) to dig deep into the diet, habits, and environment of every patient to discover the root issues behind what’s ailing them. And if we’re honest, we’d have to admit that the vast majority of those patients wouldn’t work to change the root issue anyway.
If you’re like me, that’s a tough truth to handle. I want to know the underlying cause and fix it, but I see why they can’t do that for every patient.
So while you may be wanting to figure out what’s causing muscle spasms, your doctor may only be focusing on how to get you relief from the spasms.
When it’s time for your doctor’s appointment, you’re going to have your medical history in hand and have an idea of what could be the problem and how to treat it. You will have already gotten ideas about safe meds from your OB and/or pediatrician, and your expectations will be in line with what your doctor can actually provide.
You’ll allow your doctor to do her job, and not demand a specific medicine – or worse, a specific diagnosis.
You’ll know exactly what questions to ask about new prescriptions and what to say if you disagree (Because “Why do you think I don’t have fill-in-the-blank?” is much easier to work with than “You’re wrong. I have fill-in-the-blank, you moron.”)
When you follow these guidelines, your doctor can easily diagnose and treat you. Better yet, you and your doctor will be a team working toward making you better while keeping your baby safe.
In other words, you’re the perfect patient!
How do you prepare for a doctor visit? Please share in the comments, I’d love to know!