Tips for Talking to Your Doctor

Tips for Talking to Your Doctor

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After working in the medical field for more than 17 years and dealing with a chronic illness for 14, I feel pretty seasoned around doctors. I can approach most of them with confidence to advocate for my patients and get my needs met when I’m on the other side of the medical chart.


But, I have to admit, I initially found them intimidating. After all, they’ve spent at least a decade in school between college, med school and residency (and even more if they’re in a specialty). And there’s something about those white coats and stethoscopes around their necks that aren’t all that warm and fuzzy. But then I realized, they’re just a bunch of working folks trying to make society a better place to live. Why the fear?
Getting the most out of your doctor visit takes some preparation on your part. With insurance companies limiting everything from the time you are seen in the office to the prescription drugs and procedures they will cover, you need to make the best use of time in that tiny office with the white paper covered bench. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years:


  • Decide why you are going to the doctor before you make the appointment. This will allow the receptionist or nurse to relay your symptoms to the doctor before you’ve even set foot in the waiting area. Are you there for a physical, an acute illness or chronic issue? Pick a problem and focus.
  • If you’re being seen for an illness, make a note of the duration of symptoms and anything unusual about them. For example, you get a rash every time you eat eggs. Or you have a cough, but it gets much worse when you’re lying down and you’ve had it for five days.
  • Write your questions down before you get to the office and prioritize them by importance. Just like any other appointment, your doc has a schedule to keep. Don’t waste his or her time talking about your kids, your cat or your career unless those things are affecting your health.

  • Ask your doctor to speak in laymen’s terms. Doctors spend a good majority of their time speaking with other doctors. So, they’re used to speaking their medical lingo. I once heard a physician tell a patient he “had a large hematoma in his inguinal area.” After the doctor walked away, the patient looked at me and asked what he meant. “Big bruise in your groin,” I told him. If you’re at all confused about your condition, medications or other issues, ask for a clear explanation.
  • Do what the doctor tells you and don’t lie! Your doctor is not there to “fix” your health. It’s best to see him or her as a team member that’s working with you to be as healthy as possible. Take your medications as prescribed and follow up when you’re supposed to. This will earn the respect you want from your doctor and most importantly keep you healthy for the long run.
  • Finally, seek a second opinion. if you’re not happy with your doctor. Just like you’d find a new hair stylist after a few bad haircuts, doctors can be replaced as well. Don’t settle for one you don’t trust, respect or have full confidence in.

Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
Location: The McAlpin
Model: Shauna Grainger