Preparing for an appointment
Appointments with doctors, mental health workers, or other professionals may make you feel nervous. It's easy to forget what you want to ask or to come away feeling confused about what was said. Appointments with professionals can be very short, and sometimes you have to wait a long time to get one, so it's important to get the most out of every meeting.
How should I prepare for an appointment?
You may find the following useful:
- If you make an appointment to see someone and you feel uncomfortable going on your own, take a friend or family member with you. They can provide support and help you remember what was said
- Before your appointment, write down all the questions you want to ask and make sure they've all been answered before you leave. You may want to write them in order of importance to you
- Write down the answers you're given. If you're given the names of other people or organisations, make sure you write down the correct contact information
- There may be a number of support or treatment options available. Explain that you would like to know about all possible alternatives
- If something is said during the meeting that you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask the person to explain what they mean
- Ask if there are any leaflets or other types of information you can take away with you
- If the appointment is with a mental health professional or counsellor you might want to see on a regular basis, use your first meeting to decide whether you feel comfortable with them and whether they are someone you think you could trust
- If you don't feel that you are going to get on with a particular person or professional, go elsewhere. You have the right to choose. What matters is that you get the help you need
- Don't forget, you don't have to take any help or advice if it doesn't feel right.
How can I get the most from a visit to my GP?
As you will know most GP's have busy practices and therefore may have a limited time to spend with you. Don't let this put you off attending. Your GP is there for you and perhaps will get to know you better than any other health-care professional. To get the best from your visit consider the following:
- Don't delay in making an appointment-delaying may make the problem worse
- Arrive in plenty time for your appointment if anxious take someone with you
- Be clear about what it is that you want to discuss
- Start with the most pressing problem first and explain how this is affecting you as best you can
- Whilst sensitive issues are more difficult to talk about don't avoid these-remember your GP will have heard people talk about such problems many times before
- Take your time and relax as much as possible-if you are over anxious you may forget what you want to say or miss out on some of the information and advice given to you
- Remember your doctor is there to give you helpful advice and if necessary treatment but you should always feel in control
- If you are unsure or unhappy about what the doctor is saying or suggesting seek clarification and say how you feel
- If you feel you are not responding to the treatment your GP has prescribed arrange a return visit and explain how you feel
- Try and keep all appointments made with your GP.
What should I consider when contacting a phoneline?
- Select the most appropriate phoneline available to you. All phonelines will give a brief description of who the line is for, what services it offers and what times it is open
- Some numbers are free phone and others are offered at a standard rate charge. There may be a charge on a free phone service if you are calling from a mobile phone
- Decide when you are going to phone and ensure that you have enough time set aside; that you are going to have privacy; and that you are not going to have any distractions
- You may wish to select a time when you are feeling composed and less distressed in order that you can clearly talk through the issues affecting you; Prior to phoning think about what it is you would like to discuss. It may be helpful to make a list of the issues that are important to you and to use it as a memory aid on the phone
- If your call is not taken straight away there may be a temptation to quickly hang up – try and hold-on as your call will be answered and hopefully will help you
- It may be easier for you to speak to either a male or female advisor – you can make this request if you need to
- Starting a conversation can be difficult but remember the advisor is understanding and is there to help you as much as possible
- Take your time and be guided by the advisor
- Phone calls are confidential so you must have trust in the person taking your call
- Remember that you will always be in control of the situation and it will be your choice as to how much information you want to give the advisor and to what extent you will respond to the advice and guidance that you are given
- Keep a pen and paper handy for any contact information that you are given in order that you can write it down as it is given to you
- If you are unsure about any point made by the advisor seek clarification
- Prior to the call ending you should feel that someone has actively listened to you; given you support; and pointed you in the right direction for getting further help if necessary.