I posted this earlier in the year, but I thought that you all might like to take another look. This time of the year often means that more people have colds, flus and other bugs. I hope you won't have to worry about illnesses with you or yours, but if you do, I hope these tips help.
Since the doctor’s office is not usually the most fun place for a person of any age, I thought I’d jot down some tips to help make the experience go a little easier. Most of these were learned through my years as a social worker and my own experiences as a parent. Please add any additional tips you may have in the comments section so that all may benefit. As always, all of the tips are given in good faith. You must ultimately make your own decisions as to what might work for you.
For all ages--
- Make your appt the earliest one of the day or the first appt after lunch. These usually offer a shorter wait.
- Be friendly to the office staff and nurses. These folks have a lot more of a say in your care than you may realize.
- If you have trouble remembering appts, start making them for the same time of day. I had a patient who said she always made her doctor visits for 2pm on Tuesdays for any kind of appt. It was much easier for her to remember. I have heard Oprah talk about making her annual appts on her birthday. Ask if the doctor’s office provides reminder service where they call you the day before your appointment.
- Be prepared to show your insurance cards, even if the information has not changed.
- Arrive early. Many doctor’s offices double book appts to reduce the losses from no-shows. If you are the first person to arrive, you will usually be the first person to be seen.
- Expect to wait. If you go in expecting to wait, you will be less frustrated.
- Bring your own pen. You most likely will do some sort of paperwork while at the doctor’s office. If you use their pens, you may have just become exposed to more germs. This is a good practice for the grocery store as well.
- If you have been fasting, bring a snack for after your appt. Or, ask the nurse if you can eat your snack while waiting for your results or to see the doctor.
- If you are going in for something serious, bring a family member or trusted friend. In stressful times, they may be able to ask questions you may not be able to think of.
- Bring a pad of paper to jot down notes.
- Doctors usually do not like laundry lists of issues. They have a limited amount of time to see you. If you have multiple issues to address, write them down succinctly on a piece of paper and give them to the nurse when you are checking in. The doctor will be better prepared to answer the most pressing of issues listed.
- If you are not satisfied with your care, talk with your healthcare provider about the issues.
- Nurse practitioners and midwives are known for making a habit of spending more time with patients than their counterparts. Speak with your insurance company to see if these options are available to you.
- Be up front with your healthcare provider. If you do not tell them the truth, they might miss something in your care. Likewise, tell your provider if you prefer alternative treatments. For instance, I do not take medications unless absolutely needed. My doctor respects that and will discuss treatment options and why medications may or may not be helpful. Also in this area, tell all of your healthcare providers all of your medications INCLUDING any herbal supplements or remedies and vitamins.
- If you have any medication changes or there is information from your appt that might be relevant to another healthcare provider, ask that your records be sent to that person’s office. As a social worker, I like to know when medications have been added or dosages have been changed as this can effect mood and mood symptoms.
- Ask your doctor to call in your medications to the pharmacy for you. This will not only save you more time, it might help reduce the risk of errors.
- If you aren’t sure if your illness is serious enough to go into the doctor’s office, phone the office and ask to consult with the nurse.
- Wash your hands after leaving the office!
Infants—Most of the visits at this age are for check ups.
- When picking a pediatrician, ask if he or she offers a sick waiting room and a well waiting room. If not, ask a friend to go with you so that you can wait outside or in the car until it is time to go in. This helps to reduce the risk of the baby getting a bug that another child has at the office.
- Know that how you act towards the doctor will be read by your baby and older children. If you are hesitant or frightened, your child will know.
- Medieval oil or Medieval mix has been used for centuries as a prevention against illness, but it can be irritating to sensitive skin. We use it for our daughter when traveling or when we are around people who may be ill. We put a little on a part of her clothing that will not show a stain. Look for it in health foods stores or Frontier co-op. If you cannot find medieval oil, look for clove oil. It offers a similar affect.
- Transport the infant in either the car carrier or a sling to allow you a chance to have your hands free if needed.
- If the baby has blood drawn, try nursing either afterwards or during if your healthcare provider is agreeable to help comfort your baby.
- Dress the baby in an easy outfit to get on and off. At our daughter’s first doctor’s appt I dressed her in a super cute outfit (we all want to make a good impression, right?). The outfit was never seen by the doctor because she was weighed in her diaper and remained that way until after the appt was over.
- If your doctor did not wash his or her hands when coming in or use hand sanitizer or don gloves, ask that they do so before examining your child. Most offices have a sink or sanitizer in the examining room.
Toddlers and young children--
- Be honest with your child. If something is going to hurt, do not say that it is not going to. As best you are able explain what will be happening at the appt in a matter of fact way.
- Read books about going to the doctor, dentist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, etc. (OK, so there may not be any books out there about going to the acupuncturist for kids!) These will provide an opportunity for your child to ask questions.
- Bring toys for them to play with that can be easily cleaned later. The most helpful to date for us have been activity cards for kids. While I suggest bringing toys and activities, make these small so that you are not toting tons of stuff in and out. If your child is ill, you most likely will be carrying him or her and the last thing you want to deal with is extra bags. Activities can be in the form of songs and games. Toys could be a few small items that can be put in your pocket.
- If the child has been vomiting, bring at least 2 changes of clothes for the child AND for you. Pack plenty of wipes.
- If you think it might be helpful, bring a sippy cup or small snack for the child.
- Respect their privacy within reason. Leave the room when they are changing. Ask if they prefer you or your partner with them during the appt.
- If the healthcare provider does not already have the habit of talking directly to your teen, ask him or her to do so.
- Encourage them to bring books, handheld video games, or another activity for while they are waiting.
- Bring activities for yourself such as magazines, books, or note cards.