Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.
It is crucial to prepare in advance to see your doctor for multiple reasons.
Doctors, as we all know, are generally extremely busy people. While most people experience stress on the job on a regular basis, it is somewhat different for physicians. After all, if a physician goes too fast or makes a mistake, it may cost someone her life. Sometimes, it can be extremely challenging to balance warmth, an approachable personality, the acute illness at hand, and the people waiting to be seen next, not to mention the hospital pages, messages to be answered, and prescriptions to approve.
It is not surprising that several fields of medicine are seeing a decline in their ranks. The demands of the job, as well as the hours can be overwhelming. Primary care physicians are felt, by some, to be in danger of 'relative' extinction.
Consider this scenario:
Dr. VanOrden walks in her door around 10 pm after a long, exhausting day. She is paged at 3 am because her patient, Mrs. Green, is going into labor. Naturally, she hurriedly gets up and rushes to the hospital to deliver this baby. After taking meticulous care to make sure the delivery is safe for both mother and baby, she has enough time to swing back home to take a shower before her office hours start.
She arrives at work promptly at 8 am, to find an office full of scheduled and walk-in patients. If she is compassionate and does not have her receptionist tell the patients without an appointment that they need to schedule an appointment for her next available appointment slot, which could be weeks away, she will be forced to rush from room to room, sometimes feeling guilty for not having enough time to spend with everyone. On the other hand, if she considers the time constraints and feelings of only those who made a real appointment, she may be forced to turn away other sick patients by sending them to the emergency room (perhaps to wait for 6 – 8 hours before being seen). Either way, there is a potential lose-lose situation.
Even on days which start out on even footing, there are frequently unforseen emergencies (in medicine, we call that an average day) that require time that was not accounted for when the schedule was made.
Physicians around the country are being forced to see more and more patients, and document more and more to protect both their patients and themselves. Therefore, the amount of time they have with an individual patient may seem short, but frequently, it is the most the doctor can do under the circumstances. If you doctor does not have time to chit chat, don't take it personally. The person in pain in the next room anxiously waiting to be seen is someone's parent, child, or sibling and one day it may be you.
By preparing for a visit in advance, you can think out what things you want to say and what questions you want to ask. Do not wait until you are face to face with the doctor to try to remember everying you want to address. The visit will not go as well as planned in those cases. The doctor may be having one of those extremely busy days and, sensing her stress level, you may feel anxious yourself and forgot some very important things until you walk out of the room and the doctor is in a room with someone else.