Making The Most Of Medical Appointments

This article was originally published on Invisibly Me.

When it comes to getting doctors and specialist appointments, all too often we feel rushed and leave feeling as though we’ve not said what we wanted to, or not been listened to and taken seriously. I spent years going back and forth to various medical professionals, and although I think some offer no hope no matter how hard you try, there are certain things you can do to make the most of your appointments. Here are a few suggestions.

Make The Time Count

Be concise in what you want to say. Avoid indecision with umming and aahing and stick to the point at hand without wandering. It’s a good idea to note down what points you want to cover and to rehearse how best to say them and in what order so that you feel prepared and confident. If you get nervous or anxious, try to preempt this and listen to  your mood-boosting favourite music before you go, dress in clothes that you are comfortable in so that you’re not distracted, and even consider taking a book or magazine for the waiting room. On some occasions, I’ve wanted to go over in my head what I want to say, but other times I just need to to take a few minutes to clear my mind. It’s a case of whatever works best for you at the time.

Get Your Ducks In A Row

If you have any evidence, be that records of symptoms, or photographs of flare-ups when the problem is at it’s worst, then have it to hand. It’s sod’s law that when you arrive for a GP appointment that the symptoms you want to discuss are suddenly no longer as obvious or severe. Also take a list of your current medication as they’ll often ask about this.

Remind yourself of these things :

  1. You know your body better than anyone else.
  2. They are there to do a job; they are being paid to see to your health and wellbeing.
  3. You deserve to be treated with respect, to be taken seriously and to be listened to.

Anticipate The Next Steps

You might be able to make some educated guesses at what the GP may suggest, such as a blood test or requesting you keep a diary about your symptoms. You can keep a note of symptoms over the course of a week or more and be prepared with this when you turn up, which could save you some time & a repeat visit. If you think a blood test may be needed, clear your diary for after your appointment in case you are able to take the request form to your local hospital for the test the same day.

What Do You Want? 

Think about what it is you’re asking for. Do you want a physical exam, a sick note, a certain kind of blood test or scan? Is there something you think that may help you, a medication you’d want to try, a referral you think you need?  Sometimes GPs can benefit from suggestions and an idea of what you’re after. The worse than can do is say ‘no’ (and justify the answer), but having an idea of what you think you need can save a lot of wasted time.

Getting Blood Test Results

I find it useful to ask for a copy of blood test results, asking for them ‘for my own future reference’. This can be good so you can take a little control in managing your health and keeping track of what’s what. It can also be a way for you to cross-reference your results. In the past, this has allowed me to pick up on something a doctor has missed, and it’s also allowed me to see results classed as ‘fine’ that have been borderline and debatable, because different countries and practices have their own ‘normal ranges’. This can be problematic in the case of diagnosing thyroid problems, for instance. As a back-up, if I’m given the blood test form before having the test done, I take a photo of what they’re looking for (which is also how I’ve discovered errors on forms in the past, too).

Consider Back-Up

Being repeatedly fobbed off or not taken seriously can become very disheartening and frustrating, very quickly. Consider asking a partner, parent or close friend to come along, someone who can respectfully stay in the background during the appointment looking fierce and stepping in if necessary to fight your corner in a more professional, diplomatic way.

Don’t Give Up

Persevere, even when disheartened and frustrated. Request to see someone else if you can. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly, contact an organisation that can give advice or advocate, such as PALS. Write to the practice manager if you wish to formally complain.

Take back a little control, educate yourself,