3 Things you need to bring to the doctor’s office

My second pregnancy lasted a long, long time.

The baby was big and getting bigger every day. Six months went by, then seven, then eight.

Finally, one morning—two weeks and one day after my so-called due date—I woke up with some tentative contractions. I waited. More contractions.

At last, I was in labor. When I called my doctor, he said that my then-husband and I should go to the hospital. We rushed over there and straight to admitting.

Receptionist on duty: What’s your name? What’s your doctor’s name? Why are you here? How far along is the pregnancy? When is your due date?

Me, beginning to feel a bit edgy: Two weeks ago.

She then explained that she was just checking—that sometimes a pregnant woman shows up at the hospital, just because it’s her due date. The doctor tells her the baby is due on a certain day. That day comes, and off she goes to the hospital—contractions or no contractions.

What I learned

This experience taught me—or reinforced my belief—that I need to take responsibility for my own health. We all do. We need to learn the basics about how our bodies work, make regular appointments with our doctors, and be prepared. After all, a doctor has hundreds of patients, and who knows more about your body and your health day-to-day than you do?

Three things you need to bring to your next doctor’s appointment:

1. Meds you take

Sometimes you see advice that you should fill paper bags full of your meds, haul them to the doctor, and dump them out on a table for the doctor to look over. That sounds a bit extreme to me, partly because my doctor’s office already has a record of my prescriptions and over-the- counter medicines. We should just be going over any changes to that list.

I use the handy My Meds List shown here partially filled out.

Name  Madeleine Kolb
Health Type 2 diabetes  Prone to hypoglycemia
Allergies  Penicillin
Meds  Caltrate  2 pills/day
        Ca       600 mg/pill
        Vitamin D]       400 IU/pill
Contact Info  My BF’s name  His cell phone #
Physician  My doctor’s name  His office phone #

I fill in the list, print out several copies, cut them out, and paste them on 3 x 5 cards—perfect for carrying in my wallet and the glove compartment in my car. I also carry one in my fanny-pack when I’m walking or running—just in case.

You can create your own Meds List as a Word table or an Excel spreadsheet.

2. Vaccinations you need

Why do grown-ups need vaccinations anyway? Often we think of vaccinations as being for children, but grown-ups need them too. For one thing, hardly any of us have written records of what vaccinations or immunizations we’ve had and when we had them. So you may not be certain whether you received certain vaccinations at all or whether they were even available when you were a child.

In addition, some vaccinations—such as the one for tetanus, whooping cough, and diptheria—need to be renewed periodically. And flu vaccinations need to be repeated every year because the viruses which cause flu mutate so rapidly. That means that last year’s flu vaccination will probably not protect you this year.

Which ones do you need? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has an excellent tool to help you figure out what Vaccinations You Need, based on sex, age, and other factors. The first step is to take the CDC’s Easy to Read online quiz

Let’s try a hypothetical example:  Fill in the quiz for a man named Patrick, aged 60, with Type 2 diabetes who has no plans for foreign travel. (Travel to certain parts of the world increases the risk of contracting particular diseases.)  The quiz generates the following list of vaccinations which Patrick needs:

Vaccine Suggested because…
Seasonal Flu (Influenza) Influenza vaccine is recommended for all adolescents and adults. The vaccine may be given as soon as it is available and throughout the influenza season. (Note: Adults older than 49 years of age, pregnant women, and anyone with chronic medical conditions should not receive the influenza nasal spray vaccine.)
Pneumococcal You indicated that you are at risk for pneumococcal disease. You have a chronic medical condition or weakened immune system.
Tdap – Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis You need one booster dose of tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine if it has been 10 years or more since your last tetanus and diphtheria booster. Tdap may be given at an interval as short as 2 years since the last Td dose if protection against pertussis is needed. Close contacts of infants less than 12 months of age and healthcare workers having direct patient contact should receive a one time Tdap booster which may be given at an interval as short as 2 years since their last dose of Td. Later booster doses should be given using tetanus and diphtheria vaccine (Td).
Zoster (Shingles) Your age indicates that you need a single dose of this vaccine to protect against shingles. You should receive this vaccine even if you have already had shingles.

After you take the online quiz and get your list of vaccinations, here’s what to do next:

  •  Click below the list to print the Healthcare Provider Form.
  • Fill in your name, your doctor’s name, and the date of your appointment on the top right hand corner of Page 1 of the form.
  • Fill in the Patient Information boxes on the lower half of the form.

When you go for your doctor’s appointment, bring the form and ask your doctor when and where to get the vaccinations you need. If your doctor gives you any vaccinations during the visit  and makes notations on the form, ask her for a copy of the form.  Finally, put the form in a safe place at home, such as, well, a safe. Bring the form with you when you get any other vaccinations.

3. Questions you have

The third thing to bring is a list of any questions you have about your health—not emergencies but things you’ve been wondering or worrying about. For example, I’m going to ask about my right thumb which has been painful off and on for a few weeks. Since I’m right-handed, this condition is a real nuisance. I wonder why it hurts, whether it’s healing up by itself, and whether there’s anything I need to do about it.

Another question is whether I need an appointment with a dermatologist to check for cells which are precursors to skin cancer cells. I had such an exam about a year ago but wonder if I need to have one every year.

What about you?  Do you schedule regular appointments with your primary health-care provider and other specialists you need to see? Do you postpone those appointments as long as possible? Do you talk to your doctor about any concerns and ask him questions? Do you have any suggestions for other ways to prepare for a doctor’s appointment? I’d be very interested in your comments.

photo by patrlynch

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Madeleine Kolb 11/26/2010, 10:36 am

    I appreciate the comment. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has so much helpful information. Having the chart for what vaccinations I should have will help me at my doctor’s appointment in a few weeks. I hope it also helps other people.

  • Aging and Disability 11/24/2010, 12:05 am

    Thanks for the nice little chart. It dummy proofs things for me.
    Aging and Disability recently posted..What to Do If You’ve Been Given a Fibromyalgia DiagnosisMy Profile