So, you waited three weeks to get an appointment, and then spent 90 minutes in your doctor’s waiting room anxiously flipping thru old, worn out magazines.
Your heart raced each time his nurse opened the door, hoping it was your turn to be seen, only to have your hopes dashed time and time again as someone else strolled leisurely by you to see the doctor. Just when you finished your second review of the only magazine you found remotely interesting, your name is called.
Now it’s finally your turn to tell him all about that annoying rash, the abdominal pain you’ve been plagued with for months, and your chronic headache, which keeps you so irritable your co-workers now affectionately refer to you as the “grumpy bear”. After spending another 20 minutes sitting on a cold examining room table in a flimsy, torn paper gown you start to get antsy. The door flings open and the doctor hurriedly walks in, obviously preoccupied with other issues.
He stands over you and quickly asks the reason for your visit. As you try to gather your composure and explain your concerns, his beeper goes off, not once, but four times. Each time he excuses himself for a few minutes and then returns, each time looking a little more harried. To make matters worse, when you do have his undivided attention and try to explain your symptoms, he repeatedly interrupts you. As you teeter back and forth between being nervous and just plain furious, he hands you a lab slip to get blood work done and a prescription to “try”. You gather your composure just in time to see the door close as he exits the room.
Unfortunately, this scenario happens far too often, not because doctors are uncaring, but because, in many instances, they are simply stretched too thin. Between endless piles of paperwork, an imaginable schedule that is frequently overbooked to accommodate everyone who wants and needs to be seen, prescriptions to call in and phone calls to return, physicians are often over-worked, stressed out, and running on empty.
The good news is that there are ways that you can help your doctor help you. Prepare for your visits before you even set foot in the doctor’s office so you can help expedite your own diagnoses and minimize unnecessary tests and procedures.
- Make a concise list of your concerns and rank them in order of importance. Your doctor may not be able to address all of your concerns in one visit, so make sure to begin with those issues that concern you most.
- Think through each symptom in a methodical manner so you will be able to explain your problem thoroughly, yet quickly.
- Try to remember when you first developed the symptom and what you were doing when you first noticed it.
- Are there any other accompanying symptoms?
- What makes that problem better or worse?
- Have you ever had the problem before?
- If you have experienced the same problem in the past, whom did you see, what tests were done to diagnose the problem, and what was the outcome?
- Keep a list of your medications with you at all times, and don’t forget to include over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Vagueness such as, “I take a little white pill,” will only make your doctor cringe inside since there are so many little white pills on the market today.
Partnering in your health care does not have to be difficult and learning a few basic “patient skills” can go a long, long way.
Read more posts by Maria Hester, M.D., here. Dr. Hester blogs for JenningsWire.