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Making the Most of Your Doctor Visits

Written by Chris Stone, RN

Do you feel overwhelmed when you visit your doctor? Do you forget what you wanted to ask about, or forget the names of your medications?   A lot of people feel rushed and get flustered at the appointments.  They forget what the doctor said or are confused by the instructions they were given.   Don’t despair!   There are things you can do to make every doctor visit count.

Prepare for the visit:  

  • Write down a list of your questions. Things to consider are:
  • What is the reason for your visit?
  • Do you have a new medical problem, or is this a follow-up appointment?
  • Refer to your list during your time with the doctor to make sure all your questions are answered and nothing is overlooked.
  • Don’t be shy or embarrassed to share all your symptoms or health concerns. The more the doctor knows, the better he/she can help.
  • Write down the complete list of the medications you are taking – even medications prescribed by specialists. Be sure to include vitamins, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications.

When you are at the appointment:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if there’s something you don’t understand.   If you want to know why a medication is being prescribed, just ask. You have the right to understand all decisions that affect your health.
  • Bring an adult family member or friend to the appointment.   An extra set of ears can pick up on information that you might have missed. It’s okay for that person to take notes while you talk with the doctor.
  • Before leaving, get a recap of the appointment.   Ask the doctor or nurse to repeat the instructions. Write down what you need to remember.  Some offices now give a written summary of the appointment – make sure you understand the information on that summary.
  • Were you given prescriptions? Make sure you have the paper copy of the prescription before you leave your appointment.   Some offices now send prescriptions directly to your pharmacy.
  • If you still have questions about your prescriptions, the pharmacist is always a source of
  • And while we’re talking about prescriptions – ALWAYS use the same pharmacy – this will eliminate any chance of medication errors.