June 19, 2018 at 3:55 pm #12344Kathleen ShefferParticipant
Upcoming appointments with my care team always come with some general anxiety about test results and my health status. As I’ve grown from a pediatric patient to an adult, the responsibility to remember what is said in an appointment and to ask good questions falls to me rather than my parents. I manage my anxiety by preparing for my appointments ahead of time. Here are some tips that have helped me.
1. Bring a list of questions.
I jot down questions for my doctors on my phone whenever they come up in daily life so that by the time my next appointment rolls around, I have a whole list of non-urgent questions to ask. As a kid, my doctor would turn to me and ask if I had any questions at the end of an appointment. I felt stupid always saying, “not that I can think of,” and I’d usually remember questions later on. Here are some of my favorite questions.
2. Write your questions on a pad of paper and take notes by hand.
Recently I’ve realized my doctors will spend more time with me and give me more attention if I have a pad of paper in my hand. Instead of typing on my phone, which they might assume has nothing to do with the appointment, I take notes with pen and paper. This gives them a visual for what I think is important and how many questions I have left on my list. It’s easier for me to have the questions and answers on my phone, but it’s worth it to take the extra step to transfer them back and forth to paper so my doctors know I respect their time. They have greater respect my time in return.
3. Bring a friend or caregiver with you.
As important as it is to be your own advocate, it’s ideal to bring a friend or caregiver to your appointment to lend another set of ears. Especially during stressful meetings, it’s easy to forget some of the discussion, so it’s great to have someone else taking notes.
4. Pack snacks and entertainment.
Maybe this is just my problem, but I get hangry waiting to see doctors. My patience wanes as the minutes pass, the bright white lights make my brain fuzzy, and the crinkly paper lulls me to sleep on the exam table. By the time the doctor opens the door, I have very little energy to interact with him or her, wasting all my preparation from previous months. To get through the mind-numbing waiting period, I bring protein bars, bananas, water bottles, etc. I always have a book with me, but sometimes that can’t hold my attention so I listen to podcasts or do stretches.
5. Reflect on how you feel.
Doctors want to know how you feel, not just what the numbers say. Try to pay extra attention to your symptoms a couple weeks in advance of your appointment. Take note of any changes or concerning events (if you are good as my mom is — no one is — you will write down the time and date and circumstances of every dizzy spell and irregular heart beat). Your doctor can’t monitor you 24/7, and they expect you to know your own body, so do your best to judge how you are feeling this month compared to how you were feeling six months ago (he or she will often ask you precisely that question).
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