When I turned eighteen, many of my friends asked me how it felt to officially be an adult. To be completely honest, it didn’t feel any different from being seventeen. I for sure didn’t look any different and wasn’t necessarily treated any differently by my parents, teachers, or peers. Life seemed to go normally without any major changes until I realized that I was due for a doctor’s visit.
I was on medication, and my doctor wanted me to come back and see her after my treatment was complete to make sure things were going well. The appointment wasn’t scheduled, so I asked my parents to call the doctor’s office and schedule an appointment for me, as they had done all these years.
Here came one of the first big changes in my life.
The receptionist said that since I was eighteen, my parents couldn’t schedule appointments for me; I had to call the office myself. It felt weird to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment on my own. I realize that it was ultimately just a phone call, and I have spoken to people over the phone many times before, but it felt unsettling and nerve-wracking. Did I know the name of my health insurance provider? Did I know important information regarding my family’s medical history? The receptionist was nice, and the phone call went fine, and, yes, I did actually know the answers to the questions I was asked. After the call ended, I felt relieved. It felt good to know that I had a little more responsibility. I learned to successfully schedule my own appointments, and although it doesn’t seem like a really big deal in hindsight, it felt pretty good at the time!
The second big change came at the actual appointment.
When the nurse called me to go into the doctor’s office, my mom accompanied me as she usually does. However, unlike all the other times I had visited the doctor, I was asked if I wanted my mom to be in the room with me. I make medical decisions with my parents, so I definitely wanted my mom with me, but it was an interesting feeling to know that it was my choice if I wanted my mom with me or not.
Finally, during the appointment, almost all the questions were directed at me, rather than at my mom. I was controlling my appointment, which was strange and different. Being a bit of an introvert around people I don’t know well, I was comfortable with my mom asking all the questions and doing most of the talking for me, but now, I am learning how to handle things on my own. I had to make eye contact with the doctor, answer her questions, and ask any follow-up questions I had. It wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be because of the open environment that my doctor created. I could tell that my mom had sensed the change too when she muttered, “You’re going to have to learn to do a lot on your own now…” when we left the office after the appointment that day.
Sometimes doctor’s visits aren’t as helpful as they could be, especially if you don’t know what questions to ask (or if you even should ask questions), if you need to eat and drink before you go, etc. It’s a lot to remember! So this article should help you get the most out of your doctor’s visit.
More changes to come
Although I am still on my parents’ health insurance plan, a lot of responsibility regarding my health care will start falling on me. Already, I have learned to schedule my own appointments, check my health records on the patient portal online, and talk to doctors completely on my own. This isn’t stuff that is taught in school, but it is still important for real life. Many teenagers go off to college unsure of how to manage their own health care and use the resources available to them to take care of themselves. It’s crucial for them to acquire these skills early on so they can develop independence and personal freedom as new adults. I know I will have to get some orthodontic work done when I am in college, so I will have to be seeing an orthodontist every few months. This and a lot of other things are going to be new because I am going to school in a different state.
I have realized that it is important for me to take control of things from early on. I hope I am able to do that next year and pave a good path for a smooth four years ahead in terms of managing my health care.
Making your own doctor appointments is just one part of being an adult, here are some other tips that make the transition from young to young adult a little easier.