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|Newsletters: Tips for Parents: How to Make the Most of Doctor Visits|
Tips for Parents: How to Make the Most of Doctor Visits
I keep a running list of all the questions that I want to ask the doctor. I have a calendar that has plenty of room to write about my son’s health (reaction to medicines, etc.). When I go to the doctor, I take the list of questions and the calendar — it saves time and missed answers.
Our (almost) 3-year-old son causes a lot of commotion during appointments. So, before each appointment I try to jot down a list of current medications and dosage frequency as well as any questions I come up with between appointments. I take the list with me to the appointment and if it’s a long list, I sometimes fax it to the doctor ahead of time so he’s prepared when we get there.
I have found the most effective way to communicate is to have a timeline jotted down on a piece of paper. I note any changes in my son’s condition [like weight or output] when we have a change in medication [or formula]. My son’s doctor keeps my notes in his file, so that we can refer back to them and look for trends.
I make a list of questions before I visit the doctor and I ask about the doctor’s knowledge of any research I’ve read. I want the information, but I also want to know if he is keeping current. Our doctor always completes a written plan of treatment that includes medications and doses at the end of each visit.
I follow up with my doctor by e-mail whenever I need clarification or if something she recommended doesn’t seem to be working. I keep my questions concise (both e-mail and at the office visits) because I know her time is precious.
You really need to educate yourself. Knowledge is power, and you, as parents or patients, need to know about your diagnosis. With this knowledge you can ask questions. You need to find a physician that is willing to listen to and answer your concerns. Don’t give up — we went from GP to pediatrician to specialist. Learn more about your condition, evaluate the care, and go from there.
At doctor appointments, my son is always included in the conversation and expected to answer the questions first or with me — no matter what his age. If the doctor keeps his level where a child can understand it, so can I! This helps my child be a part of his own plan.
I write down any meds that we may be low on ahead of time, so that I can request a new prescription slip. I take notes at the doctor’s office about everything that I discuss, and I have them on record in case I need to refer to them at a later date.
I’m often feeling stressed when my son or I am ill, so I make sure I repeat back to the doctor any directions given to me. This reinforces them in my mind. When the doctor is hurried and rapidly firing off directions, this technique also forces him or her to slow down.
My husband and I usually both attend doctor appointments. That way what one misses, the other usually has written in notes.
I keep a medical logbook where I record all of the medications [changes indiet, formula, etc.] my daughter is on, what symptoms she has on a daily basis, doctor’s instructions, etc. I have a separate book for each year and they are a true diary of her journey. Each doctor that has seen it appreciates it and is thankful for the information that it gives.
When you are well informed, I think doctors tend to treat you more as a partner in care than simply a mom. I also have made an effort to learn the medical lingo; doctors sit up and take notice when you can speak their language. I know what kinds of doctors my daughter likes and purposely choose those kinds of doctors for her. My philosophy about doctors is that they are people, just like us. The MD after their name does not grant them special powers. Our doctor knows more about the illness in general than I do (maybe!), but I know more about Kaitlyn’s disorder than he does.
Doctors usually are in a hurry, but I kindly assert myself and ask questions until I understand what it is I need to know. My daughter’s health is dependent on it!
When my son was young, I would bring a diaper bag filled with toys, snacks, and drinks to appointments so that while I was talking with the doctor, my son would have something to do. Now that he is older, he brings his Game Boy with him.
I went through six different doctors before I found the right one for my son. I did not settle for a doctor that rushes me. If I know I am going to have a few extra questions during an appointment, I call ahead to let him know.
This article was adapted with permission from the February 2003 issue of the MA Report Newsletter, published by Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics. For more information about AANMA call (800) 878-4403.
LifelineLetter, September/October 2003