Hi, friends! Today I want to talk about how to prepare for a doctor’s appointment, especially if it’s the first visit with a new doctor. Going to a new doctor can cause anxiety for some (like me!). Whether you’ve waited a long time for your appointment, or you’re worried about being gaslit, waking up on the day of your doctor’s visit can feel like waking up on the morning of a big exam.
But there are things you can do beforehand so that anxiety and being ill-prepared don’t sabotage your appointment. You’ll just want to make sure you start preparing well in advance so you have enough time to get organized. Read on for seven tips to prepare for a doctor’s appointment so you can get the most out of your visit!
Record Your Medical History and Current Concerns
When I was struggling to get a POTS diagnosis (or, any diagnosis, for that matter), I saw many different doctors. And since I have a complex medical history, I found it difficult to explain it all from memory. Then, I’d get frustrated after an appointment when I’d realize I left something important out.
So, I decided to type up my medical history, which included my other conditions and when I was diagnosed. But the bulk of this record included when my onset of POTS-like symptoms occurred, along with my symptoms and what made them worse or better. I wrote all of this in chronological order, made copies for myself and the doctor, and brought them to my next appointment. I noticed a couple of benefits from doing that:
- I didn’t leave anything important out in my conversation with the doctor, and I felt less anxiety over potentially forgetting something.
- The doctor appreciated it and kept their copy for my file.
- The doctor had a better idea of what tests to order for me since they had all my information already compiled in front of them.
- The doctor could ask me questions about specific points in my history and see how they might connect to my current situation.
Make Copies of Test Results
If you’ve been to other doctors before and they’ve ordered tests for you, it’s a good idea to bring physical copies of those results to your appointment. Sure, computer software that exists now can transfer that data, or the doctor’s office can fax those results to your new doctor’s office. But in my experience, you can’t always rely on that. And there’s nothing worse than to have the doctor say in the middle of your appointment, “I don’t have that,” or “I never got that.”
Mistakes happen and errors with electronic systems happen. But to prevent these situations from derailing my first appointment with a new doctor, I print out relevant test results beforehand. That way, the doctor has a hard copy to look at during my visit, and they can scan them for their records if needed.
Write Down Questions
Another one of my tips to prepare for a doctor’s appointment is to organize your thoughts and questions. Before your appointment, write out any specific questions you may have for the doctor. My anxiety in doctors’ offices often makes me forget things, so having key questions available for me to look at helps a ton. I’ve done this both by using a physical notebook and a notes app on my phone. If I have a notebook with me, I’ll write down a few key words that answer each question for later reference.
Prepare Your Main Points
Doctors are busy and sometimes in a rush to stay on schedule (if they’re not already behind!). I absolutely hate feeling rushed during a doctor’s appointment. You know, when they talk about a million miles per hour and hurry through a physical exam, and you feel out of breath trying to explain your situation as fast as possible because you just know they are rushing to get to their next patient? It’s the worse, in my opinion.
When you prepare for a doctor’s appointment, think about the main points you want to cover at the visit. This can include your medical history, your symptoms and their onset, and any questions you want to ask. Try to be as concise as possible when getting your talking points across. A long-winded story about each symptom or each point in your medical history may not be the best use of your short time together.
But also, I want to encourage people to not let a doctor rush them through an appointment. Take a deep breath. Ask all your questions. Share all your symptoms. If you run over time or feel like you didn’t get to address everything, ask if you can schedule a longer follow up to continue the conversation.
Bring a Notebook or Note-Taker
It can be hard to absorb information during an appointment for many reasons. Maybe you’re anxious. Maybe you have brain fog and fatigue. Or, maybe the doctor throws a lot of information at you very quickly and it’s overwhelming. That’s why I’d suggest bringing either a notebook to take notes during the appointment or another person who can take notes for you.
I was lucky enough to have both of my parents with me for all of my doctor’s appointments at the Cleveland Clinic. Because of that, I designated my dad as my official note-taker. While I met with each doctor, my dad took notes on what the doctors said, especially any explanations they gave for why my body could be acting the way it was. He also wrote down everything the doctors said for me to do in terms of treatment so I wouldn’t forget anything.
I was–and still am–so grateful that I had him there to take notes for me. I remember blanking out at some parts of my appointments from anxiety—times when I would have missed critical information if my dad hadn’t written it down. Thanks, dad!!!
Rally a Support System
Sometimes, everyone needs a little moral support. Personally, going to a new specialist or doctor gives me anxiety. It really helps to have someone go with me to the appointment. Even if they just drive there with me or keep me company in the waiting room, having that support eases my nerves.
Ask a family member, friend, significant other, or someone else you feel comfortable with if they’ll go to your appointment. They can talk to you in the waiting room and provide distractions. Or, see if they can meet you after in case you need someone to talk to. Pets can also provide lots of love and support!
If you’re comfortable with it, your support person can come into the appointment with you. Sometimes, having someone else who knows you well in the room can be beneficial. When I had my boyfriend come to an appointment with me, the doctor asked him questions too. My boyfriend also provided details about my health from his perspective that I hadn’t realized would be important to share.
Don’t Forget to Breathe
Like I said before, waking up the day of your appointment can bring all kinds of emotions. Set aside some time before your appointment to practice self-care. Take 5-10 minutes to focus on your breathing or do a short meditation. I love using the Calm App because of the variety of options it offers, but there are similar apps you can use for free. If that’s not your thing, then take that time to do whatever it is that helps you find a moment of zen. And remember, when you’re at your appointment, don’t forget to breathe. You got this, warrior!
Hopefully, these tips help you make the most of your doctors’ appointments, especially those with new doctors. Seeing a doctor for the first time can be stressful. But with careful planning, you can be well-prepared and confident for your visit so that you can get one step closer to feeling better.
How do you prepare for doctors’ appointments? If you also deal with appointment anxiety, what calms you down beforehand? Feel free to share in the comments below!