By Dr. Jay Trussler
“Oh, Dr. Jay, one more thing… I’ve also been having CRUSHING CHEST PAIN.” -actual patient
That is the actual quote from a real patient who came in to see me one day after I just finished talking about his infected and ingrown toenail for almost 20 minutes. Initially, he said he only wanted to discuss his toe pain. Since there were no other problems, I then proceeded to do a very thorough evaluation of his toenails and discuss treatment options, antibiotics, removal of the nail, recovery, etc. After formulating a plan, discussing everything, and writing his prescriptions, I said, “Goodbye,” to which he responded with the above quote. Needless to say, that man ended up getting am EKG, lab work, new prescriptions and a cardiology referral and it made me very late for the rest of my remaining appointments. Thinking about that encounter made me realize that it may be beneficial to you all to give you a few tips on how to get the absolute most out of your doctor’s visit:
1.) MAKE A LIST. Some doctors don’t like lists. I do, but don’t be surprised if I take your list from you and review it myself. We don’t have time to hear your 10 minute explanation of WHY you decided to climb a ladder and clean your gutters in the winter at age 80 during a rainstorm while holding your cat, we just need to know that you were on a ladder, then slipped, then fell, and hurt your foot. Also, if I see that #14 on your list in “CRUSHING CHEST PAIN” then I’m not going to worry about your ingrown toenail that day and we will probably have to address the more minor problems some other time. Lists help us doctors prioritize your problems. Most of the time, we will be able to address everything on your list, but it really just depends on the severity of the different problems. Lists also make it less likely that you will forget to ask us something that’s been on your mind.
2.) BRING YOUR MEDICINES AND THE BOTTLES THEY COME IN. We doctors have heard it a thousand times that you need refills of or had a reaction to, “You know, that little round white pill.” It’s ok if you can’t pronounce the name of the medicine, but it’s very easy for you and for us to get confused if we don’t know exactly which medicine you are talking about. The same medicine can come in different shapes and colors depending on the manufacturer. It’s also a good time to see if any of your medications were changed by any other doctor you may have seen recently.
3.) HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. We promise to try and do our very best to address all your concerns, but just because your list has 15 problems does not mean we can get to them all.
4.) REALIZE YOUR HEALTH IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. We doctors are going to make recommendations and start medications, but you are the one who needs to choose healthy foods, take those medications, and exercise every day. Don’t smoke 2 packs per day and then blame us when “that stupid antibiotic you gave me didn’t cure my pneumonia.”
5.) DON’T BE EMBARRASSED. We doctors have heard it all. Trust me. Nothing surprises us.
6.) BE PATIENT. If we are late to your appointment, it’s not because we don’t value your time. It is probably because another patient needed a bit more of our time. Unfortunately, not every visit fits nicely into a 15 minute scheduled appointment slot, and a good doctor will not worry so much about what time it is, but rather make sure that the patient in front of them receives excellent care.