An upcoming doctor’s appointment can put dread and fear in even the bravest of people. Doctors hold information that you need, and not knowing can build anxiety and stress. Visiting the doctor is also quite different to other appointments; there are often substantial waits, and visits can really vary in length. 

How to get the most out of your doctor’s visit

1. Be prepared to wait

Doctor's Appointment Waiting Room

Doctors are infamous for running behind schedule. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing! For example, if you find yourself running late, you will still be seen. But it does mean that you could be left waiting for a while. To prevent boredom and hunger pains, bring a healthy snack with you that you can eat on the go. You can also bring along something to entertain you like a puzzle book or adult colouring book. Waiting rooms usually have water, and tea and coffee facilities to help quench your thirst (and get your caffeine fix). To diminish anxiety levels it is also best not to book anything too close after your appointment if you do find your doctor running late.

2. Drink plenty of water beforehand and wear loose fitting clothes

Blood tests, ugh. Doctors love them; even if you had one yesterday, you may find yourself needing another blood test. Doctors may also request blood tests after they see you. Drinking plenty of water, and avoiding too much caffeine (if you are a caffeine addict, have one to two glasses of water with every cup of tea or coffee you have), will make it easier to take your blood.

Additionally, it can be awkward and painful trying to roll up a sleeve of a very tight top. And you can feel exposed if you need to remove your top or dress for the single blood test. Wearing clothes that you can roll the sleeve up above your elbow will make it easier for the phlebotomist (blood taker/vampire), and more comfortable for you, should you need a blood test. 

3. Know where you’re going, and leave some time for getting lost

Hospitals are a large warren of poorly signed corridors and very slow elevators (which always seem to stop at every floor!). Leaving enough time to get to where you need to go is fine if you know where you’re going. But it could take an extra five to ten minutes to actually get from the front door to corridor F, up the second lift, to the 16th floor, until you arrive at your destination (most likely out of breath and slightly more anxious).

4. Get to know the reception staff / medical secretaries

In some cases, you may have weekly to monthly appointments with your doctor. And if they are infamously running late, the person you will probably spend most of your time with is the reception staff or their medical secretary. And as with most things in life, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. You probably won’t find yourself getting VIP service and popular appointment times, but you may find it easier to reschedule your appointment. Not to mention having a warm friendly familiar face around can make tense situations calmer and easier.

5. Have someone come with you, and don’t forget your notepad

You and your doctor may have different objectives for your visit. Your doctor may also be pressed for time and seem rushed when seeing you. If you only retain 50% of what the doctor says, having someone else present will allow your to gain overall more information than you would be able to by yourself.

However, having someone come with you is not always an option. If this is the case, bring a notebook. A notebook can serve two purposes; firstly you can write down your thoughts and questions prior to your appointment so you don’t forget questions you need to ask your doctor, and secondly, you can write down anything important points the doctor says.


Bonus tip! Chances are, you’re going to encounter some large, sometimes unpronounceable words (like any chemotherapy drug ever invented for example), that you may mishear. If you come across any of these, ask your doctor, or nurse to write them down or spell them out for you. That way you can look them up later more easily.