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Preparing for Doctors Appointments: 5 Tips

Going to the doctor is especially daunting as someone with a chronic illness (or trying to get diagnosed with one). We’re often met with being told our pain doesn’t exist, normal labs, normal scans, etc. Including that, a lot of doctors are always in a rush to get through the appointment, talk fast, leave little room for questions, and talk using medical terms without explaining.

Here are 5 Tips for Doctors Appointments:

1. Write down all of your symptoms and things you are dealing with in your notes. The easiest way I’ve found of doing this is organizing everything on your list either by body part (head to toe) or from most painful to least painful.

Then at the end of your list, write down when everything started, any things you’ve tried to help with pain, any labs/imaging you’ve had for this issue, and other doctors you’ve seen and what they have said. That last two are important as most of the time doctors don’t see your records until right before the appointment or even during it.

2. Be prepared with the questions you want to ask. You’ll likely have many questions pop up during the appointment to what the doctor is telling you. This may make you forget about the original questions you wanted to ask. So the day before, think about what questions you would like to ask. Maybe there are questions your parents or friends think you should ask that you may not think of. Jot them all down and have them prepared, just like you did with your symptom list.

3. If you don’t understand something, speak up! This is so important because doctors can talk fast and forget that most patients don’t understand medical speak. So if they use a medical term, ask them what it means. If they say something that is a bit confusing and isn’t registering in your brain, ask them to clarify it a bit more for you. It’s okay to say you’re confused or not understanding! They should then break it down for you so you can understand.

4. Build up your confidence on the way there so if they start to not listen to you, you are prepared. It’s okay to push back. It’s okay to say “well this doesn’t make sense because I am in pain, my pain is real, so what is going on here?”. Don’t be rude but stand up for yourself and be a bit stern.

If they can’t help you, ask them who they think could help you. It’s okay to feel disappointed and discouraged after an appointment like this. Throughout life, you will be met with doctors who don’t believe you, say your pain is normal, or just aren’t the right person to help you.

5. Take notes or ask if it is okay to audio record the appointment. Sometimes during appointments, a lot of things are said and discussed. And for those of us who have brain fog or just have trouble retaining certain information, remembering what the hell just happened after a doctor's appointment is common. Before the pandemic, I usually still brought my mom to most appointments (yes I brought my mom with me as a 28-year-old).

I did this because she was able to retain all the information so I didn’t have to focus so much on remembering what the doctor was saying. She also had her own questions and they were usually ones that I either forgot to ask or didn’t think of. On top of all that, she will speak her mind and sternly ask the doctor things, which is what I needed at the time.

Now since you can’t bring anyone with you to medical appointments, I call her and put her on speakerphone during the appointment. For this I always let the doctor know that I would like to call and have my mom in on the conversation. They really can’t say no as it’s your appointment🤷‍♀️

At the end of the day, you are paying these doctors to help you. So make the most out of your appointments. And if you strike out with one doctor, cross them off the list and search for another. (Easier said than done I know😕)


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