11 Things to bring with you to the new Rheumatoid Arthritis specialist (UPDATED 2016)
Meeting a new doctor, especially a rheumatoid arthritis specialist, can make you nervous. Of course you want her to understand your symptoms, make a correct diagnosis, and suggest the right treatments. You have high hopes for this meeting, so you want to prepare as much as possible. Here are a few things to think about ahead of meeting the rheumatoid arthritis specialist for the first time.
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1. Person: Bring someone to serve as a witness who also provides moral support. Choose someone who believes in you and will back you up one hundred percent. For example, choose someone who has seen your disease at its worst. Discuss in advance the role they should play. Do you want them to have the freedom to interrupt?
2. Questions: Some doctors are willing to look at a list of questions. Others prefer you only ask questions verbally. Regardless, carefully prepare your most important questions in writing so that you won’t forget what to ask.
3. Records: Bring all relevant medical records or lab results. It takes time to prepare and maintain your own set of records, but it is worth it for several reasons: You have them whenever you need them. You can know exactly what is in them, even having errors corrected. You can use them to make certain that every lead is followed. If this is a first visit, bring a folder with copies of relevant labs and doctor notes to hand over to the office to be added to your new chart.
4. Information: This one is the stickiest. Not because the toddler got PB&J on your folder… Surveys show that doctors are much less likely to use the internet than patients are. I’ve seen this firsthand. One doctor told me that she barely can email. Another laughed in my face at the mention of the internet. The radical website I mentioned? National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS). Choose carefully what information to hand a doctor. Choose things like professional journal abstracts or articles on reputable websites like Johns Hopkins or Cleveland Clinic or a mainstream news source. Don’t expect him to respect information from a forum discussion whether or not it’s correct.
5. Notepad & pen: Or a tablet or whatever is comfortable to write down what you might want to remember. There might be a question to ask the doctor when you get a chance. There could be something to look up online when you get home. Maybe there will be instructions about how a prescription should be administered.
6. Meekness: Doctors are notorious for being defensive with patients who try to be involved in their own treatment plan. Hopefully, you’ll find one who is humble enough to have a productive conversation. Either way, you can do as much as possible to be respectful of her knowledge and the many years of training it took to become a rheumatoid disease / rheumatoid arthritis specialist. It’s easier to be nice if you realize that the last patient may have handed the doc a spam sandwich full of crazy ideas printed from the internet.
7. Moxy: Being polite does not mean being a doormat. The reason for the appointment is your own health, not anyone’s ego. It is vital to your health that you learn to clearly advocate what you need. Only you can inform the doctor of things that only you know such as how much pain you feel or whether a medicine is bringing you relief. If you have any concern, you should be able to discuss it. If you are told there is not time, politely ask for the time to have it addressed through another appointment or a short phone call.
8. Symptom / pain diary: If you keep any kind of symptom journal or calendar, bring a copy for the doctor to see. Make sure that any symbols or abbreviations are clearly explained. Ask that it be added to your chart.
9. Open mind: Hopefully, you have chosen a good specialist who can offer you expert advice. Listen carefully to ideas that are new. You don’t have to accept them, but you should at least examine them.
10. Sweater: In the USA, I have not been in a doctor’s office which is not at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit colder than the freezer section of the grocery store. If you wear layers, you can be comfortable with whatever the temperature is. This eliminates either sweating or shivering which can make you look and feel more nervous. I bring socks if I know that I will be made to disrobe.
11. Rolodex: Just kidding. But always keep in mind that you can use this when you get home. It may relieve some pressure to keep in mind that if this doctor does not listen or does not know the answer you need, you can try again. Yes, it’s exhausting and demoralizing to have to start over with another rheumatoid arthritis specialist, but you should have another chance if you need it.
The meeting with a rheumatoid arthritis specialist doesn’t completely depend on you, the patient. But you can be as prepared as possible for it to go well.
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