More Alike Than Different Podcast- Episode 7
Preparing for a Doctor Visit
How do you prepare for a visit with a specialist or doctor?
How do you prepare for a doctor visit? When I was new to being a special needs mama, I was in what I like to call the “soak it up phase”. I asked so many questions and had so many thoughts it was hard to keep the doctor visits under an hour. Since then, I have become strategic and think of doctor visits in a different way. I like to have a plan. I don’t mind changing the plan. But, plans keep me centered, at peace, and give me a sense of control I often don’t really have in the day to day living world. I make a list before I go with questions, concerns, and areas I would like doctor input. I put it in writing and I take it with me. Because, when you finally get to the children’s hospital, park, get out all of your supplies, check in, use the bathroom/ change your child, you are already tired. Having a list helps me reduce my mental stress and overwhelm when I have 5 minutes to clean up a peed through child.
What do I pack?
Diaper bag (diapers, wipes, change of clothes x2, my wallet with ID and insurance cards, medical supplies, feminine protection for me, toy or gadget to keep child entertained)
Travel Medical Binder/ Accordion file (pen, small pad of paper, Child Resume, list of current medication, list of previous surgeries, list of current and past diagnosis, previous specialist after visit summaries and protocols for the past year, list of questions for the current doctor visit) If your stroller does not have a carrying basket, I like to bring a bag or small backpack to carry this binder. At the end of your visit, you will undoubtedly have more papers that are important. I throw them into the front of my travel binder.
Food- If your child has feeding difficulties or you have an infant you have to pack more than most. I usually pack a lunch box with feeding tools like a maroon spoon, bottle, cutaway cup, food and drink needed during visit. If your child is on a feeding tube, you will need to be creative. Sorry- there is a lot of trial and error in motherhood, I think.
Stroller/Wheelchair- 2-3 Mommy hooks, bottle carrier attached to diaper bag, cold water for me, snack for me (in case I get cranky)
Things I pack and leave in the car
Blanket, soft toy, a different toy for engagement in the car, extra wipes, sometimes a small cooler for food and drinks for me and extra drinks for the kid
I bring the blanket not only for comfort but as a practical tool if my child peed through on the car ride. Now, you have a soiled car seat. Once you change your child, you still have a soiled car seat and probably little to no time to try to clean the car seat. Let’s face it, the cover needs to be washed. I bring the blanket to use as a buffer between clean and dirty.
While I do have my visits down to a science now, I had to figure it out along the way. A little preparation and study of previous trips has allowed me to have a much better, lighter, easier experience when visiting doctors. What are some things you do to prepare and reduce your stress for an upcoming doctor visit?
I really like to think about how to monopolize on each visit. I think about if I need updated prescriptions, updated protocols, letters of medical necessity, advice on how to care, what to add, what to delete, what I should focus on before next visit. Doctors also like data. What data do I need to bring to update the doctor from the last visit? I usually include as much as I can on my list I made for this specific visit. Because, I am human and I always forget something! It is much harder to get a message and response from a doctor later on. Plus, I find I usually get better answers while I’m in the exam room with the doctor able to physically see my child. One more thing I add to my list because sometimes it escapes me and I waste time later- I put car validation and school excuse note on my list. These are easy things. But, sometimes I have to walk back to the car or check in desk to accomplish these things later. Or, I may have to call later and it takes up more of my time.
This may sound overwhelming. Just the thought of all of this preparation and list making. But, it’s actually easier. You get better outcomes from appointments, reduce your stress, and create some peace in your space. Not to mention, you are already doing most of these steps. We are just organizing and creating intention for your actions. I get a feeling of accomplishment when all my questions are answered, the doctor has given me a plan, and we have already done most of the paperwork I will need to complete future action steps like filling prescriptions, updating protocols, or disseminating information to other members of his care team.
My visits to specialists are much more productive now that I have specific plans in place. You can too. Start a basic plan today. Decrease your overwhelm and stress. Notice I did not say eliminate. I don’t believe you can truly eliminate it all. But, you can get a plan in place. Do some trial and error and feel more productive and less overwhelmed. You can do it. Just start!