After spending a lot of time on these boards and working in a physician's office, in addition to being a patient myself, something important has come to my attention. People are incredibly out of control when it comes to their own health, both adults and teens. And I think it's about time we talked about what's going on here, because it is important.
Have you ever walked out of the doctor's office with questions unasked OR unanswered? How about taking a medication without knowing how it works/how you should take it/what is going to happen? Have you ever been afraid to call and ask your health care provider about something?
If your answer was "yes" to any of those questions, then it's time to wake up and take control of your own health care! It is your body...you should never be putting things into it that you don't know about or leaving the office or pharmacy with unanswered questions. It's not good for your health and it's not safe.
So let's give some helpful hints and advice about how to be empowered when it comes to your health. Do you have a secret fear about dealing with health care professionals? Have a suggestion about dealing with health care providers as a teen? Share them here!
I remember being a teen and being afraid to look the doctor in the eye or say anything at all. I wasn't really afraid of being hurt persay (though I am deathly afraid of needles). It was more of a feeling of being intimidated by the clinical situation and the very educated adult I was faced with. After working in health care, I've seen the same thing in many other teens. They come into the office, stare at the floor the entire time, and often let a parent do all the talking.
So what can you do about that?
First, remember that your physician is just a human being and that they are there to help you. If you close yourself off, then your health care provider can't help you. So don't let yourself be intimidated. Remember that he/she is a normal person just like you.
Secondly, be prepared. You'll always feel more confident if you are prepared for your appointment. For example, we have a list right here of questions to ask your doctor when you go in for your annual exam or want to discuss birth control. Print out some of those lists, or make your own list, of questions for your doctor. Have all the information you can possibly have before you go to your appointment. Make sure you know about your family history and your current health. If you are seeing the doctor for a specific issue, do some research ahead of time so that you at least understand the basics.
Speak up and be confident. Remember that this is a service that YOU are paying for. It's your right to ask all the questions that you want to ask. So ask them. Your doctor is not a mind reader, so if you don't ask, he/she won't know what your questions are. Look your doctor in the eye and speak confidently. He/she is more likely to treat you like an adult if you act like an adult.
Arrive early and be neat and tidy. Let's be honest here...you're going to get more respect if you're dressed in clean, tidy, reasonable clothing than if you show up in baggy sweat pants, a ripped out Areosmith t-shirt, no socks and dirty undies with your rear end hanging out of your pants. Nobody wants to see that. You don't have to be dressed in a business suit, just be reasonably dressed.
For the love of Pete, be HONEST. Don't lie. If you haven't been taking your medication or using a treatment correctly, tell them. If you've been eating nothing but junk food, fess up. If you're sexually active, say so. Your health care provider cannot help you if you are not honest with them. And you may actually be putting yourself in danger by lying.
------------------ Sarah Liz Scarleteen Sexpert
[This message has been edited by KittenGoddess (edited 07-14-2005).]
I have a question about my condition that was not answered during my appointment, what do I do?
Pick up the phone and dial. I'll confess that I have a bit of phone anxiety myself -- I don't particularly like having to call and ask questions. Heck, I'll try to talk someone else into calling to order pizza for me if I can.
But when it comes to getting answers to questions about YOUR specific health, it's best to take control and be pro-active. So here are a couple of things you can do.
If your question is about a condition:
Call your physician's office.
Ask to speak with the nurse or to leave a message for the doctor.
Be prepared to give your full name, date of birth, and address on file. Also, make sure that you give a phone number where you can be reached in the near future (i.e. if you are going to be out of the house all day, give them your cell phone number so that someone can return your call, if necessary).
Be specific. If you're having symptoms, state all of them as specifically as possible. Know what medications you are taking for the problem or that you have used on the problem (including the strength, how often you take/use it, where or how you take it, and how long you have been taking it).
Don't ever think that your question is stupid or that you should be embarassed for asking.
Choosing a health care provider can be one of the hardest things for anyone. There are so many to choose from and it's hard to know if someone will be a good fit for you.
So should you just flip through the phone book and choose a name randomly? Probably not.
Think about what you want from your health care provider. Do you believe you would be more comfortable with a male or female health care provider? What type of health care do you need at this point? Are you looking for a primary care provider (family physician) or do you need a specialist?
If you have insurance, now is a good time to call and find out what your insurance requires. Do you have an HMO or other plan that assigns you a primary provider? Is there a list of physicians that your insurance wants you to choose from? If you need to see a specialist, does your insurance require that you obtain a referal from your primary care provider? Find out about these things.
Now it's time to talk to your friends and family. Find out who they see and who they like. That can often be a good way to find who's good. Also, if you know any health care professional on a personal basis, ask them who they see or who they would choose to see.
Make a list of the individuals who seem like good options. Look at how far from your home and workplace they are located.
Utilize the internet to check out your physician. There are several services available that list the credientials of health care providers. And in many areas you can find patient feedback about the various providers.
Start making phone calls. Call the offices and ask for information about the provider, the office, and general prices.
Again with the telephone anxiety. But you can't very well get checked out without an appointment, can you?
Things to do before you call:
Find the number of the office where you want to be seen. The phone book and the internet are great sources for this.
Have your calander and know your schedule.
If you have insurance that you intend to use, have your cards ready before you call to make the appointment.
Know your: full name, billing address, home phone number, birth date, and social security number.
Know the name of your family physician or the physician that referred you. (if applicable)
Be ready to give the office a brief description of what you need to be seen for. You don't have to give them the full history of your problem, but you should have an answer better than, "My face," for instance. Does that mean acne or a sever rash or a lesion that's bleeding profusely or what? Be specific enough that the office will know what's coming through the door.
What happens when you call:
If you have not previously been a patient of this provider, ask if the health care provider is currently accepting new patients.
Ask about the cost of the visit (cost is an issue for many people) and inquire about whether or not they accept your insurance (if you plan to use insurance).
State that you would like to make an appointment to see the provider.
Select a date and time that works for you and for the provider.
Provide your name, phone number, address, social security number, and insurance information.
Book the appointment.
Ask the important questions: Where is the office located? What do you need to bring to your appointment? How early do you need to arrive? Are there any special preparations that you need to make before coming to your appointment? Will payment be due at the time of the visit?
Be patient. You may be put on hold at some point during the process. Try to be understanding. Medical offices receive a ton of calls.
Do not be surprised if you cannot be seen immediately. Many offices are booked out a month or more, especially for new patients. Don't get angry about this -- other people need to see the provider as well.
Be polite. The office workers in medical offices work incredibly hard and often get a lot of grief from patients. If you're cool to them, they'll be cool to you. Don't complain or get angry. Be polite instead -- that will make them more likely to call YOU when they have a cancellation or try to work you in sooner or help you out otherwise.
Copyright 1998, 2013 Heather Corinna/Scarleteen
Scarleteen.com: Providing comprehensive sex education online to teens and young adults worldwide since 1998
Information on this site is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant to and cannot substitute for advice or care provided by an in-person medical professional. The information contained herein is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or for prescribing any medication. You should always consult your own healthcare provider if you have a health problem or medical condition.