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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!


    Beaverton girl makes bandage breakthrough, wows Google, wins $15,000

    A Beaverton seventh-grader invented a bandage that can tell doctors when it needs to be changed, thus speeding healing, and with her invention, finished in the top eight in an international science contest run by Google.

    Anushka Naiknaware, 13, won a $15,000 scholarship, a free trip to the Lego world headquarters in Denmark and a year’s worth of entrepreneurship mentoring from a Lego executive.

    The Stoller Middle School student brought some serious scientific and mathematical chops to her feel-good science project: designing and testing a bandage that is embedded with teeny tiny monitors to let medical workers “see” whether the dressing has dried out enough that it needs to be changed without having to remove it from the patient.

    That’s important because large wounds need to be kept moist to promote healing, but changing bandages too often to check or ensure moisture levels can make wounds worse. She came up with and tested a way to embed nanoparticles of graphene, via ink printed into fractal patterns, in bandages to accurately detect when moisture levels have dropped.

    Brilliant, huh? This from a 13-year-old who thanked a mathematical YouTuber for introducing her to “fractals and ultimately the elegance of math.”

    Judges loved her work. She was named one of 16 global finalists, all of whom traveled to Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, to present their project to the judges, some of them Nobel laureates, and compete for one of eight awards. Getting to interact, debate and play with 19 other curious and driven teen scientists from places including Zambia, Malaysia and Brazil was one of her favorite life experiences, she said.

    Another came long before that: the moment when she built her first prototype of the bandage and graphene-embedded sensor “and saw it work: My idea became a physical, tangible reality.”

    Anushka was the youngest person to win one of the coveted global prizes. She scored the Lego Education Builder Award, designed to recognize “a student who uses an innovative, hands-on approach to solve some of the greatest engineering challenges.” With it came the $15,000, the mentorship and the trip to Denmark, where she will receive, among other things, a custom-build Lego brick and a chance to address the company’s board of directors.

    Her parents, Ravi and Rahka Naiknaware, both entrepreneurs with engineering and science backgrounds, may both accompany her to Denmark.

    She’ll use the Lego mentor’s advice, she said, to figure out how to get U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for her bandages so a company can produce them at scale and patients can benefit.