Some children may not mind going to the doctor because they might enjoy being the center of attention and there’s usually a little prize at the end of the visit. However, as we age, that experience changes. You get a little older and you may have awkward complaints to discuss. If your weight changes, you may find hopping on the scale in the office embarrassing. If your doctor changes, you may have to share very personal information with an entirely new person. You may also feel so anxious during doctor visits that your blood pressure and heart rate goes up. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “white coat” syndrome.
Knowing what to do before and during your doctor visits can help you create a positive experience. It can help you establish and build a good relationship with your doctor, which can make the experience more comforting. Here are some tips to consider:
Be prepared for your visit: Write down your questions ahead of time so you can discuss them with your doctor. Have all of your medical information with you, including your list of medical problems and medications. This simple step can make your doctor’s visit much more efficient and ensure your questions are answered.
Give yourself enough time to get to your appointment and do the paperwork. Everyone gets busy and runs late for meetings. However, for your first visit with a new doctor, it’s a good idea to get there early. This will allow you to avoid feeling rushed and anxious, or apologetic for being late. It also gives you time for the medical and insurance-related paperwork that is often required for the visit. And, of course, your doctor should be on time for your appointment too!
Wear comfortable clothes and bring a book! An exam often requires you to take off your clothes and shoes. So it's a good idea to wear loose clothing and shoes that you can easily take on or off. The “waiting room” is called that for a reason, and you may have to wait there or in the examination room for the doctor. Bring a book, magazine, or your smart phone to keep yourself occupied while waiting.
Be honest during the visit. As a patient you might feel embarrassed about your symptoms, or not want to share private information with your doctor. You might be afraid to appear “weak,” or you may worry about complaining too much. The opposite is true. The doctor’s visit is a time to be completely honest about your problems or symptoms. The information you provide can offer key clues or data to help identify your medical diagnosis correctly.
Consider bringing someone with you. It can help to bring a friend or family member to the visit to help you keep track of information. A second person can help to answer the doctor’s question about your medical history and to listen to the doctor’s information. You can even ask that person to take notes! Some couples see the doctor together too.
Remember doctors are people too. Some people are intimidated by their doctor. It may help to remember that doctors are just people whose job it is to communicate with you and address your medical concerns. With all the digital communication and social networking, the doctor’s visit may be one of the last few places where a conversation is a highly personal, one-to one interaction. Your doctor will give you his or her best expertise and professional opinion. It’s good practice to treat your doctor in a way you would wish to be treated—with respect and courtesy.
Rebecca Ashkenazy, MD is the Women’s and Men’s Health, US Medical Director, Pfizer Inc.