Do White Coats Make You Nervous?


doctors_black and white photo-550Do white coats make you nervous?! Because they sure make me anxious! I’ll be honest with you: just the prospect of going to the doctor’s office makes me sweat. And don’t even get me started on the dentist. No, I am not scared of shots. But I am scared that whatever help I need, I won’t get. And that is a very real fear!

As military dependents, we don’t have the luxury of picking medical providers. Under the best conditions, we can ask other military dependents who they recommend, and under the worst, we are flying blind. So, the question becomes: How do you get the care you deserve and need with a practitioner you don’t know? The answer is: advocate for yourself and partner with your healthcare provider!

Here are some things you can do to help get your medical needs met!

  • List your concerns and the needs you want met. Make sure they are prioritized. This sets the stage for your exam, for both you and the provider. Don’t make them hunt down the reason for your visit; if you are there for a run of the mill check-up mention it, if you are there for specific reasons tell them.
  • Negotiate with the provider what issues can be addressed today, and if you will need another visit to address the rest. This way the two of you will have realistic expectations about what can be completed today. You don’t want to leave your appointment and feel like nothing was accomplished. Nor do you want to rush through! Be aware that different appointments are allocated different amounts of time. A first time visit to a new primary care provider may be a 45 min slot at one practice. While an appointment for a specific problem may be a 15 min slot.
  • Prompt your healthcare provider! Ask them what they think about your symptoms, what else it could be, and what tests they will run. This will pull your healthcare provider out of his or her tunnel vision. You want to inspire them to think outside the box. Just in case!
  • If they prescribe medication: What is the medicine for? What are the side effects? When should you take it? Will it interact with any of the medications you are presently on? And will it interfere with your daily life at all? The last thing you want is to go home with a medication that you don’t fully understand!
    If you aren’t happy, say so. Fill out a patient satisfaction survey. Let someone know. Nothing is going to change unless you say something!

Now, if you are reading this and you are saying to yourself, “I can’t be that assertive with my provider,” then bring a friend. Bring someone, anyone, who will advocate for you or just be there for you emotionally so that you can feel supported.

Recently, I heard a talk by August Fortin, an MD who specializes in patient centered care, and he acknowledged that “being a patient is amazingly disempowering.” We all know that feeling, especially when seeing a healthcare provider you don’t know about an issue you might be really nervous or uncomfortable about. But you can take that power back. You should get the care you deserve!

What experiences have you had with a new provider? What tips and tricks do you have to make it an easy transition?

katie-mccuskerPosted by Katie McCusker, NMFA Volunteer, US Coast Guard spouse, and ACNP student

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