Doctor’s appointments can be intimidating and overwhelming. When I first started seeing doctors and specialists regularly, I wasn’t sure how to go about them. Over the years, I’ve compiled a pretty good checklist to help me get the most out of my appointments.
1. Keep notes on all flare-ups, symptoms, side effects, and so on
This is something that’s so important both for you and your doctor to see. Keep detailed notes on when you flared up, how bad it was, which symptoms flared, and so on. You’ll be able to see your own data in terms of your chronic illness and will start to see if there are any patterns.
You can also track the side effects of new medications. I like to write down at least one sentence about how I’m feeling each day when I start a new medication just so I don’t forget everything, and I can see what side effects happen to me the most.
Another thing you can keep notes on for your doctor's visits is your diet, via a food journal (especially if you’re seeing a nutritionist). See if there are any trigger foods based on how you feel and what you’ve eaten.
2. Bring someone with you to the appointment
Sometimes during a doctor’s visit, I forget some of what’s said. So much is going on, and as I said before, it can feel pretty overwhelming.
I suggest bringing someone with you, like a family member, partner, or close friend, to help you not only remember what was said but to help you advocate for yourself as well. It’s okay to get a little help!
You could have your support person write down notes while you talk to your doctor and stay focused on what’s most important, while not having to worry about frantically writing notes and trying to remember everything.
After the appointment, you and your support person can debrief and go over what was said, and you can update or make new notes accordingly.
3. Write down everything you want to say to your doctor – for example any questions, the research you’ve done, and so on
Speaking of notes, I also keep a journal of all of my doctor’s appointments dating back to 2017 (when I got sick). I’ll write down absolutely everything I want to say to the doctor, including every point and question I’ve thought of since the last visit.
That way, I don’t have to sit and panic the night before thinking about what to say or trying to remember the questions I’ve had over the months since I’ve seen them last. They’re already in a notebook and ready to go!
4. Be honest with your doctor
Being honest with your doctor is extremely important. Yes, some things can be embarrassing to talk about, but at the end of the day, your doctor is there to help you. If you aren’t honest, they can’t help you to the best of their ability.
Whether it’s your specialist or your family doctor, try your best to be as honest as possible about what you’re going through and you’ll be able to get better care than if you hide things here and there. Trust me!
5. Remember that you know your body best
Lastly, always remember that you know your body better than anyone else. You live in it every single minute of every single day! It can be hard to remember this, but as the patient, you ultimately know the most about your situation.
Your doctor isn’t living in your body or with you 24/7, and they only know as much about you as you tell them. Advocating for yourself is so important.
Ask questions, make suggestions, and tell them what’s going on with you and you’ll have a much better-quality appointment. Always, always advocate for yourself during a doctor’s appointment.
It can be hard to stand up to a doctor, but as I said, you know your body best, and you know what you go through every single day with your condition. They don’t.
With these five tips, I hope you can make the most out of your doctor’s and specialist’s appointments! Once you get into a routine and get more comfortable with doing all of this, it’ll become second nature and will hopefully help so much. All of this has definitely helped me!