For many people, hospitals can be a scary place. Maybe your experience with hospitals has involved visiting a sick family member, or something happier, like seeing a friend who just had a baby. Or maybe your experience has been more personal—going to the hospital for yourself. Was it just one time, or a few times? If you’re like me and have a chronic illness, I’d guess that it was probably the latter.
Whether you have frequent appointments at a hospital, or appointments with different specialists, here are some tips to help you feel more empowered and in control of your time. Many of these tips can be accomplished before you even leave your house!
- Do your homework. Are there questions you have for your doctor? If so, write them down in case you forget them. I bought myself a little notebook that I always take with me, and in between visits, I make notes and write down any questions that come to mind. Remember to take your blood pressure, too. Mine is always higher because I suffer from white coat syndrome. It’s a real thing!
- Bring something to distract you. This could be a phone, a book or a magazine—whatever will keep you immersed until your name is called. Chances are, you’ll be kept waiting!
- Make sure you have water. A healthy snack is a good thing to have on hand as well.
- Wear comfortable clothing. Do you need blood work? Can you push up your sleeve easily? Will the doctor take your blood pressure? In most cases, you’ll want to be wearing clothing that you can easily take off and put back on again.
- Carry some reminders of people you love. Is it your husband? Your children? A relative? For me, it’s a combination of things. Looking at pictures of my beautiful kids smiling takes a load off my shoulders. I think it also helps with my blood pressure. I wear jewellery from a best friend, a bracelet with a strength charm from my brother and a scarf that was knit for me, as a Christmas gift, by my cousin’s wife. Of course, I’m always rubbing my wedding rings.
During the visit
- Manage your time expectations. You’ll likely be there for a long time. Doctors are busy. Patients might be late.
- Take deep breaths. You won’t be here forever. Remind yourself to be thankful that we have world-class doctors and medicine to keep us alive.
- Remember your voice. Speak up for yourself. You know yourself best. You know your body best.
- Ask your questions. It’s a crappy feeling to leave your doctor’s appointment wishing you’d mentioned something or asked that nagging question that’s been bothering you.
When the appointment’s done, and your feet have left the medical world and rejoined the general population, treat yourself to something special. A lipstick, a new accessory, a latte—it doesn’t have to break the bank. Just pick up something frivolous to take your mind off all the heavy-duty stuff you’ve had to endure.
Take another deep breath. It’s over, so enjoy the rest of the day!