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Have you ever walked away from a doctor’s office thinking, “What did he/she just say?” Have you ever waited around for test results for weeks? Have you felt rushed in your appointments or like you didn’t have enough time to ask your questions?

The best advice we can give is to be kind but annoying. Don’t wait for your doctor’s office to call you, call your doctor’s office. If you are on a cancellation list, call in the mornings to see if anyone has cancelled that day. If you are waiting on test results, call at least once a week to see if those results have come in.

You might hear, “Don’t worry, we’ll call you when your results come in.” Or, “As we’ve told you before, we don’t have an opening today.” That’s ok, thank them for their time and try again another day. The key to this is to always be kind – never rude! Chances are you’re speaking to an operator or front desk coordinator, they do not have the ability to add extra appointments to a clinician’s schedule, so it does not help to ruin their day. In fact, it may backfire if they get frustrated with you, as they might be tempted to call other people on their cancellation list before you if you’re unpleasant. On the other hand, if you are kind and let them know that you are happy to be the squeaky wheel then they may be happy to provide the grease.

Ask questions! Always ask questions! If you don’t understand what your doctor is telling you, ask them to repeat or re-explain. Ask for handouts or written materials about what you’ve been told or about what you’re going through. If you know you’re going to see your doctor or healthcare professional, keep a notepad or a note on your phone and write down the questions you want to ask. That way, when the time comes, you won’t have to remember what it was you needed to ask about.

It’s common to feel overwhelmed or intimidated by healthcare professionals, keep in mind that they are there to help you. It’s not an imposition to make sure that you understand what is happening. If they express that your appointment’s time is used up, schedule another appointment, or ask about other resources that might be available to you.

Takeaway points:

  • Be kind but persistent.
  • Don’t ruin the front desk coordinator’s day, but do be the squeaky wheel.
  • Don’t wait for your doctor’s office to send test results – call them to follow up.
  • Write down questions for your clinician before your appointment.
  • Don’t keep your clinician past your appointment time – ask for a follow up appointment or other resources.
  • Advocate for yourself!