Photo by RO on UnsplashPhoto of a waiting room with an orange carpet and tan chairs.

Photo by RO on Unsplash

Photo of a waiting room with an orange carpet and tan chairs.

Have you ever walked out of a doctor’s appointment and realized that you forgot to ask an important question (or several questions)? Or, have you left unclear about your condition or treatment plan? Do you ever find yourself wondering why you paid so much for a fifteen-minute consultation?

Most of us have been there. Doctors’ appointments are expensive, anxiety-provoking, frustrating, and overwhelming.

Bring a List of Questions

If you are anything like me, your brain conjures hundreds of questions in the time between two appointments. Then, as if by magic, you forget almost everything when you are seating across from the doctor.

I spent years giving doctors blank stares when they asked if I had any questions. I would scramble through the filing cabinets of my brain searching for all the questions I had without success…….. until the drive home! After an embarrassing amount of time repeating the same mistake, I devised a system.

I keep a piece of paper by my desk. Whenever I think of a question, I write it down. The day before my appointment, I review the questions and decide which ones are important. I write copy them in a small notebook and bring them to my appointment.

*Pro-tip- Feel free to include a question or two that is unrelated to the specific reason for your appointment. For example, you can always ask your GI about your frequent headaches and bruising. Worst case scenario, they can’t answer it. In the best-case scenario, you save yourself a trip to another doctor.

Do Not Be Afraid to Sound Foolish; There Are No ‘Stupid’ Questions.

Sometimes I find myself holding back on a question because I do not want to make a fool out of myself in front of a highly educated doctor. I read an article attributing this tendency to hold back as part of our ‘ego.’

While I do not consider myself a very confident person, I understood the article’s argument. Why do I think I need to pretend I understand the complex biology behind my conditions? Why do I think a doctor would even judge me for asking such questions? No one can be an expert in everything and no one is expected to be one. That is why we go to doctors in the first place.

So, as I often tell myself when I get caught up in what a doctor might think about a particular question: “get over yourself!”

Photo by NCI on Unsplash A person types on a keyboard with a stethoscope next to them.

Photo by NCI on Unsplash

A person types on a keyboard with a stethoscope next to them.

Speak Up if you Disagree

Now, it might seem as though I am rolling back on what I just said, but please give me a moment to explain. You may not be an expert on the complexities of your disease; you might not fully understand how every treatment works or why something is not working. This being the case, you are the expert on yourself.

If your doctor recommends a treatment that concerns you, speak up about it. Explain why this treatment concerns you and ask about other options. Similarly, if your doctor dismisses a symptom, bring it up again. I find that this happens with fatigue a lot.

Doctors tend to show minimal concern about fatigue when you have been running a 103 fever and bleeding out of your rectum for months. They are quick to assert that things are getting better as soon as the physical symptoms wane. However, quality of life is important. Just because you are not confined to a hospital bed does not mean you are fine.

Ask For Samples

I feel like Captain Obvious here, but medication for IBD is expensive! Doctors usually have sample packets and pills and tablets. Do not be afraid to ask about these. My doctor gave me two weeks’ worth of a prescription once when I expressed concern about the price.

Concluding Points

Doctors’ appointments are expensive, time-consuming, and stressful. As chronic illness warriors, we spend more than enough time in these sterile, white rooms. It is critical to make the most out of each visit by asking all of the questions you have (regardless of how ridiculous you think they might sound) and speaking up when something is not working. Remember, you are the patient and you deserve to be at the center of every healthcare decision.


• About The Author
Kate Shannon holds an MA in American Studies and a BA in History and American Studies. She is currently working as a high school special education teaching assistant while taking classes towards an MS in Student Disability Services in Higher Education. When she is not working, Kate loves reading, visiting history museums, practicing the clarinet (a new hobby she picked up after her diagnosis), volunteering with children and animals, and doing yoga. Kate was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2018 and had her colon removed in 2019. She is a j-pouch patient who is extremely grateful for the new life her surgeries gave her.
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