Most people I know always complain that whenever they go to the doctors because they don’t get the result they wanted to. I used to be so intimidated by going to the doctors, and only really got over it after I became a regular in the waiting room thanks to a long-term condition. Although it’s very rare to find a good GP, the way you talk to the Dr./Nurse can have dramatic effects on the diagnosis and outcome of your appointment. Here are a few tips to make appointments a lot less frustrating:
Know what the aim of your appointment is
Until recently, I used to go to the doctors after feeling ill for a while and had no idea what I wanted them to do. You need to know roughly what you want to achieve before you even phone for an appointment. This might be really simple if you want a repeat prescription or want to change existing medication, but if you’re presenting a new problem or following up with an existing one you need to know why you’re there. Do you want treatment? A referral? Tests? Doctors note? Of course, this depends on what is actually wrong with you and I’m not suggesting you need a referral for flu, but having a realistic idea of what you would like doing will help make your appointment more successful.
Ask for what you want
I think its a British thing that we tend to let the doctors do whatever they want, and forget this is a service you are paying for, albeit not as directly as the USA. I used to just go with whatever the doctors wanted when I knew I didn’t want it and it wasn’t suitable. It probably helps that I tend to talk to my mum (medical professional) if I’m ill and get an idea of what may be wrong and what needs to happen, but I think people should try and ask for what they want if it is realistic and reasonable. For example, I had been going to see the Dr a few years ago about a stomach “bug” that wasn’t going away through medication for a good 5/6 months. The time had come when I was starting to get fed up of being in pain and asked is it possible to be referred to a consultant or get some tests done because it was clear it wasn’t going away. In the end, this saved everyone’s time, and the NHS some money because the tests at the hospital showed it wasn’t a bug but a health condition. Just be careful you don’t demand and ask nicely, Dr’s do know what they’re talking about after all!
Know Your Symptoms
Sounds so obvious but I know for a fact that most of us don’t tell the doctor or nurse everything that we’re experiencing. Everything from energy levels, mood, concentration, balance, pain, temperature and sleeping habits is relevant so don’t skip anything out. It might help to ask a couple of people who have been around you a lot while you’ve been ill to see if they’ve noticed any change in you; you’d be surprised at what you don’t notice when you’re not well. Maybe even keep a note of what time of day you feel ill or if it is affected by any activity, environment or food. Ensure your doctor understands the change by explaining what you were like before you became ill. Although you might think you’re telling the doctor a lot of pointless information, it will speed up diagnosis. A lot of things have very similar symptoms, with only one or two differentiating them. Telling them everything may help find those differences quickly. If you’re like me and struggle telling people how you feel, try and describe what it could be compared to or feels like, for example, it feels like you have a lump in your throat, like your heads underwater etc. This will give the doctor a clear idea of what you are experiencing. Make sure though your descriptions are not over-exaggerations or under-exaggerations!
If you don’t understand what the doctor is saying, ask them to explain it simply. Sometimes it’s easy for them to assume knowledge, but if you don’t know, get them to explain even if it takes a couple of attempts to get it clear in your mind. Also, if your unsure about something (Can you drink on this medication? How long do you take it for? etc) or still have a question (How did this happen?, How can I prevent this happening again? etc.) make sure you speak up. You’ve come here to find out what’s wrong with you, you don’t want to leave with more questions that you came with. If you think of something while you’re at home, and it’s an important question, phone up your practice and see if either a nurse or the doctor could phone you back with the answer.
Don’t Be Scared to Disagree
Very controversial, but I have in the past, and it got me my correct diagnosis. Dr’s have to start with the most common and probable diagnosis first, and work their way along the list hence why it may feel like your wasting your time and theirs. You know your own body, and if the doctor is telling you something that you feel is inaccurate or they don’t appreciate the severity of the symptoms you are experiencing, tell them. Yes, they have a medical degree, but only you know how your feeling. Follow what they suggest initially, but if it isn’t working for you, speak up! Suggest that you think your symptoms are more severe, agree to take the medication or have the treatment they prescribe, but ask how long you should give it to be effective. Once this period is up, ask if you can try something else. At the end of the day, you are both trying to solve the problem so work together.
I know this all seems a lot when you’re ill, but if you become more direct with your appointments your more likely to get the problem sorted quicker, and get back to being yourself again.
If you have any suggestions on future How To’s… let me know.
Thanks for reading,