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Making the Most of Your Doctor’s Visit

doctor's visit

It is a fact that a large proportion of teenagers in the United States miss their annual doctor’s checkups and do not see their primary care physician regularly. For some teenagers, seeing a doctor may feel like an unnecessary part of their schedule; they may feel that they are healthy and are having to give up valuable time just to see their doctor. For others, seeing a doctor may feel like a stressful experience that should be avoided.

Talking about serious issues concerning sexual, mental, and physical health is a huge challenge for many teenagers. They may feel uncomfortable or even shameful to admit certain information about their health to their health care provider. Some teens may also be afraid that their health information will be shared with their parents, and for others, costs associated with visiting the doctor can be a concern too.

Teens Need to See Their Doctor

Regardless of the reason, this is a big concern. It is very important for teenagers to see a doctor regularly because they can be going through issues with not very apparent symptoms that need to be addressed. Therefore, it is crucial for doctors and patients to have good relationships with effective communication. Teenagers should try to see their primary care physician at least once a year for an annual check-up. These are the visits where the doctor can keep track of changes in one’s development and offer lifestyle advice.

In order for a doctor’s visit to be successful, there are obvious things that a health care provider should be doing: creating a safe environment, listening to patients, and offering helpful, relevant advice. But, there are also things that you can do as a teenager to make the most of your doctor’s visit.

How to Make the Most of Your Doctor’s Visit

Understand Confidentiality

For starters, understanding confidentiality can be very helpful. Confidentiality is the concept of keeping certain medical information private between a patient and their health care providers. Something that many teens do not know is that they have a right to confidential health care. Most health care providers are trained to outline their confidentiality policies with their patients at the beginning of each visit. However, if your health care provider doesn’t do this, definitely ask them to. It is very important for you to know what you are able to share confidentially and give consent to. For example, all fifty states allow teens to give consent to STI services and some also allow them to give consent to reproductive and prenatal care. Hearing your rights from your health care provider is very helpful and can help you better manage your health care.

Additionally, not everything that is shared during a doctor’s visit can be kept confidential. Health care providers are mandated reporters, which means that that they are bound by law to report to authorities when abuse is suspected or observed. Understanding the concept of mandated reporting is very important.

Many health care providers also start allocating time alone with patients starting during the pre-teen years. This is a good time to share information with your provider that you may want to discuss individually with them. If you feel like you want more one-on-one time with your provider, be sure to let them know. That way, they can plan ahead and cut out some extra time during your next visit. Additionally, if you’re calling to schedule your own appointments, it’s smart to let whoever is taking the call know beforehand too.

Coming Prepared to Appointments

Next, it is important to come prepared for the appointment. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming when a doctor is asking you questions about your health and lifestyle. This may cause you to forget to touch on certain details that you were planning on discussing with your provider. It’s helpful to take time before your visit to clarify what you want to talk with your provider about. For some individuals, writing things down and coming to the appointment with pen and paper is beneficial. This shows a health care provider that you are interested in your health and are taking responsibility for it. It also allows you to remember what you wanted to discuss and lets you take notes during the visit (which is helpful for remembering important information later on).

Be Honest

It is also important to be honest. Sometimes, it can be embarrassing or may even feel awkward to admit certain information to your health care provider. But it is important to realize that they are there to help you. When you give incorrect information, doctors can’t provide you with necessary care because they don’t fully know what’s going on. Health care providers aren’t mind readers and they cannot force you to tell the truth. It is your job to be as truthful as you can be. This does not mean that you need to share every single thing; use your best judgment and help out your doctor by being honest with them.

Ask Questions

If there is anything you are unsure about— like a medical term or accessing your online health portal— be sure to talk to your health care provider about it. Most providers love when their teen patients ask questions, and it is always important to do so. Asking questions ensure you can understand any possible next steps. This is your health that is being discussed, so no question is a bad question. 

Get a Visit Recap

Before you leave, it is always a good idea to kindly ask your health care provider to summarize what you discussed during the appointment. Although most providers give patients an after-visit summary sheet to read and follow at home, it is helpful to hear a brief version of those instructions out loud. This will allow you to better remember what next steps you need to take. It will also give you a final opportunity to ask any last-minute questions that may arise as your doctor summarizes what was discussed. This will also further motivate you to actually follow through on your doctor’s advice and instructions, which is something you should always be doing!

Seeing a doctor regularly is very important during the teenage years. Take these recommendations into consideration when attending your next visit so you can make the most of the experience!

Shruti Sathish

Shruti is a blogging intern for GirlSpring. She is from Madison, Wisconsin, and will be attending the University of Richmond this fall on a full-ride merit scholarship!

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