The most important factor in being an effective communicator in any situation is to know your audience. Talking with your doctor is no different. If you want your doctor to understand something about you, your symptoms, your health, you need to take the responsibility to speak up...and quickly.
Two minutes into your routine ten-minute visit, your doctor is already figuring out the treatment plan for what ails you. Say, for example, you go to see your doctor complaining of a runny nose. Your doctor, after asking “So what brings you in today?" hears “Well, I’ve had this runny nose, I'm sneezing, and I think I have....and on and on and on” Your doctor is saying to herself, “OK, this patient has a cold, I’m not going to give her antibiotics but I’m going to need to convince her that she doesn’t need antibiotics.” Meanwhile, you are still painstakingly trying to explain your symptoms.
It’s important for you not only to be brief but to be prepared. Many experts will encourage you to write a list of questions, etc. to take with you to your doctor’s visit. While it is important for you (it’s less likely you’ll forget something if you’ve written it down), understand that it’s very helpful if you are brief and succinct.
Doctors appreciate patients who are organized, but taking in a list of 20 problems that you want to accomplish in a visit is asking for problems. In today’s office visit environment, where appointments are often scheduled every 10 or 15 minutes, you can’t possibly expect that amount of time. A skilled doctor may respond to a long laundry list by saying “Pick three things off your list for us to address today.” So be prepared. Prioritize what is important to accomplish in that visit.
More Answers from Betty Long, RN, MHA