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Education > The Doctor is In (and Out)

18 – 22 minutes: the approximate length of a TV sitcom without commercials, the frequency cars get stolen in Ohio, and the estimated length of the average American doctor’s appointment. Most sitcom residents have only one issue to deal with in this amount of time, and the odds are comically stacked in their favor. Most even have a friendly laugh track for encouragement. You, on the other hand, have pains, a chaffing, unflattering paper gown, an ever-deepening hole in your wallet, and a highly trained professional with somewhere else to be. In this land of ticking clocks and premium co-pays, we are losing sight of the end-goal: wellness. Although you cannot control the time you are given, you do have options when it comes to managing that time. Whether or not you’ll leave with your health problems revealed and remedied is anyone’s guess. However, using these simple techniques will guarantee a less stressful, more productive and satisfying visit. So sit back and try to relax, “the doctor will be in to see you shortly.”

  • Be prepared. Do your homework! Know what is involved in your particular visit. The more the doctor has to stop to explain procedures to you, the less time you have to discuss why you’re actually there. The same goes for your family’s medical history. Don’t prattle off a laundry list, but do know the key factors. Being able to discuss them in a succinct, matter of fact manner will save lots of page turning and chart-consulting time. Try rehearsing this during the seemingly inevitable hours of waiting in waiting rooms. It beats reading an ancient issue of New Mother when your kids are teenagers. Keep a health journal. Log when new symptoms appear, and when they worsen, change, or disappear. It takes the guess work out of the famous question, “Now how long has this been going on?”
  • Be specific. Apply the time-saving principles of a grocery list to your symptoms: write them out, circle the big ones, and reference it frequently. This will keep you on task. If you (or WebMD) have convinced yourself you have a particular condition, bring reference materials with you. Highlight the important parts. Don’t forget a list of your current prescriptions and their doses including vitamins, herbal remedies, and anything else “over the counter.”
  • Be direct. This is a two-way street. Answer questions honestly, even if they embarrass you. Demand the same candor of your doctor. People often complain their doctors talk down to them or try to over-simplify their speech. You simply do not have time for communication disconnects. Ask questions and continue to ask them until you get a simple, direct answer.
  • Be persistent. Everyone has disagreed with a diagnosis before. Yet, most people take the prescription paper and go on their not so merry way. Save yourself the stress and expense of a follow up visit by getting things right the first time. You would send a sandwich back if it wasn’t what you ordered, why not do the same for your health? If you disagree, disagree openly. Do not be pushed aside (just don’t throw a fit, either.)
  • Be kind. The time crunch cannot be easy on your doctors either. Put yourself in their shoes, too. Your doctors want you to get well. That is their purpose. You, in turn, can at least be nice. You do not need to ask after the well-being of their entire families (which will eat up all your time), but a simple kindness goes a long way. Try to speak calmly, and if nothing else, make your mother proud and say “please” and “thank you.”

Don’t forget to apply these tips to your recovery process. Be prepared to dedicate the necessary time and resources to getting well. Be specific with your family, friends, bosses and co-workers about your needs. Be direct and honest with yourself about how well you are feeling. Be persistent in your follow up routine and carry it over into a daily wellness habit. Take the professional advice you were given – after all, you paid for it! And finally, be kind to yourself. Surround yourself with things that make you happy. Laugh as much as you can. Give yourself the time and space needed to recover. And, by all means, “get well soon.”

2008 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted provided the authors are notified and the following bio information is included:

Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at KathleenPassanisi.com

Annie Passanisi,the daughter of motivational speaker Kathleen Passanisi, inherited her mother's love for women's issues and the platform. If that does not tell you enough about her, she is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swing set champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.