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How I Advocate For Myself at a Doctor's Appointment

I am sure you have heard that the wisest of things to remember about real estate is – “location, location, location.”

Well, my mantra for the wisest of things I can do at the doctor’s is: “prepare, prepare, prepare!”

When do I schedule my appointments?

To begin at the beginning…

I prepare myself even before I call to make an appointment. I check dates for when I am free, without time constraints on myself, so I won’t be squeezing in the visit among my other responsibilities and adding to my stress level. For me, obtaining the very first appointment in the doctor’s schedule is key. The doctor is fresh and not yet overwhelmed from her day. Sometimes, I gather those availabilities and quickly check my calendar to set up a good appointment for myself, yielding less wasted time in the waiting room. I do not wish to be perturbed even before I get examined.

How do I prepare for the appointment?

Next, I like to prepare a list about what I wish to speak to the doctor, a list of bodily areas of concern to show her. In my field, I was trained that if it is not written, as in documented, it didn’t happen – I carry that over to my every day in a bit of a different way. Having lists means it will get done!

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I like to prepare mentally, meaning I like to be in a good frame of mind when I visit the doctor for my skin. I try to be composed and not nervous about what I have found or what the doc may find. As prescribed, I visit the dermatologist every four months for regular body checks and in between if I have issues. There are times that I have practiced out loud and even in the mirror to assure myself that I will calmly speak for myself!

What do I wear the day of?

On the day of the visit, I prepare physically as to what I am wearing. I select something to undress and redress easily and quickly in order to show the areas of concern I have. So, if I want to show the doctor my scaly lower legs and feet, I wear appropriate shoes and socks that are easy to remove. Since she has suggested compression socks for circulation to help my intense itchiness, I do not wear them to the office visit as they are quite tight and time consuming to remove easily!

How do I handle the visit?

Sometimes, I bring a person of support, that would be my husband. Having someone I trust with me is vital when listening and remembering what the doctor is saying is too difficult. The other person can take the notes more easily while the doc is talking and even remind you of some key words from your own list.

If I am alone, that means I’ll bring a notepad with me to take notes, even in abbreviated script – looking at it afterwards I can fill in the gaps. Remembering the treatment, the medication, and the follow up is too important to trust it to my memory alone.

How can you advocate for yourself?

How would you advise someone who isn’t already doing these things to get started?

Regarding what to advise someone who wishes to advocate more for themselves at the doctor’s office, I would repeat my original mantra above: “prepare, prepare, prepare!”

What should you bring?

Doing your due diligence ahead of time makes for a smoother course ahead. For example, researching some medical information (and I do not mean becoming Dr. Google), about your symptoms.

Prepare a list of the symptoms, their duration, and any doctor visits for them, including all the recommendations provided. Include what has been helpful and what has not, such as medications and treatments. In this way the journey is recorded so that leaving it to memory is not necessary.

Prepare a list of all your health concerns - let the doctor know all about yourself and their health. Sometimes one thing can lead to another. I have a friend who found out she had an underactive thyroid because she complained of her dry skin to her doctor. She was able to get treatment for her hypothyroidism due to that sharing! I bless that dermatologist!

What if you don't have a good visit?

If you do not like or you have a poor interaction with the doctor, do not linger - find another. As well, should you be wary after the visit, second opinions are key to good health choices. I found my favorite doctor as a second opinion and never looked back!

How can we help one another?

For a chronic condition as ours, it is comforting to know we are not alone. Having a support group in person or like our online community, is vital for some of us to thrive. We connect with kindred souls, who may have recommendations or strategies that can make the journey less bumpy.

Traveling through the health care system is not for the faint of heart and can be difficult when we feel low due to our chronic condition. Like that old commercial used to remind us – “we are worth it!” Advocating for ourselves makes a body feel good in oh so many ways!

I shall end with this quote from one of my favorite authors, Maya Angelou, “I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.”

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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