How to Prepare for Your Next Doctor’s Appointment: a Newbie’s Guide


I have been seeing an adult rheumatologist for about a year now, so I am no expert in handling doctor’s appointments solo. The transition from pediatric to adult rheumatology is something I want to cover in another blog post. For now I want to help you get prepared for your next doctor’s appointment. Whether it be with a brand new doctor or someone you’ve been seeing for years, I want to share my tips for getting the most out of your appointment with your doctor. Let’s get started!

Get your Tests Done:

If you’re seeing a specialist you probably need to have bloodwork, x-rays, or another type of testing done before each appointment. Be sure to get these done close to your appointment date but also with plenty of time to spare. Not only do you want your doctor to have enough time to review your results, but if you’re anything like me you want to review them before you even get in there. So if it’s bloodwork, schedule your appointment at the lab a week or two prior to your doctor’s appointment. Be sure to have a copy of the results sent to you. I personally use Quest Diagnostics, they have a mobile app that sends the results straight to my account. I can look at my results on there and it even explains what each test result means if it’s high or low. It has been extremely helpful in prepping for my appointment!

 

Evaluate your Current State:

Think about the last time you saw this doctor, what has happened since then? Have you started any new medications? Diets? Activities? Have you been noticing any new symptoms? Have any old symptoms gotten worse? Maybe they’ve gotten better? Now if you have gotten those tests done, take a look at them. Do you notice any startling differences from your last test results? I take notes of all of these things before the day of my appointment. If I went in to my appointment without notes I would forget everything. Be honest with yourself about how you’re doing and don’t be afraid to share this with your doctor. You are paying them for their expertise and for them to help you in any way they can.

 

Go in With Questions:

This has been so important to me through the years. I really really love learning new things about my disease, about symptoms and how they connect to my diagnosis, what blood work levels mean, about research in the field, really just anything. So I typically go in with at least 5-10 questions for my doctor. Here are some examples of what those could be for a rheumatology appointment:
  • What do you think about trying CBD products to manage pain?
  • Are there any other vitamins you recommend taking or staying away from?
  • Do you have any suggestions for staying active?
  • What does a Positive ANA Panel mean?
  • How does my disease affect fertility?
  • Are there any new medications coming in to the market soon that I may be able to try?
  • Are there any common but serious side effects I should be looking out for with the medications I’m on?
  • Are you conducting any research projects right now?
  • Are there any other specialists I should be seeing?

Most of these questions I have asked to my own rheumatologist. Something I realized with any kind of doctor (adult rheum, pediatric rheum, primary care) is that sometimes everyone expects you to know everything, but NEWS FLASH I am not a doctor or ever going to be. But I am very interested in what is going on in my body and finding new ways to improve my life! My current doctor spends a lot of time going over everything with me during my appointment and is always very enthusiastic to answer my questions. If this is something that is important to you and you don’t feel like you are getting enough insight from your current doc you may want to consider switching to someone new.

 

Post Appointment Tips!

There are two ways I plan to spend my time after my rheumatology appointments. Either 1) sitting in my car, writing down everything the doc and I just went over 2) calling my mom, dad, boyfriend, or sister and regurgitating it all to them. Sometimes rheumatology appointments go super smooth, and sometimes they don’t. Either way I usually like to have someone to talk to after my appointment. I do this so I don’t forget everything that just happened, and also just to have some moral support.


These are only just a few things I do to prepare for my rheumatology appointment to make things a bit easier! I’m sure everyone has their own preparation practices; I would love to hear from you about how you prepare for speciality appointments. Comment below so we all can share our experiences!


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