how to have a successful general practitioner doctor's appointment

March 28, 2024

caravan sonnet
In the course of my life I have seen more doctors and know more "medical lingo" than most people twice my age. Fighting for your life for over a decade makes you an expert in things that you may never have wanted to be an expert in. *smiles* 

Overtime I have learned what to expect at certain doctors offices; including which nurses will laugh and joke around and which ones will remain extremely serious, how many pounds my clothes add to the scale and which scales I will weigh more or less on, and I am always prepared with my little notebook and a fun magazine (or two!) when I go to the doctor because as we all know a "10am appointment" usually means "hello at 11am". *smiles*

So in this age of short doctor appointments (the average appointment is 18 min) how do you have a successful appointment? Here are some things I have learned!

Before the Appointment:
(1) Don't forget to bring all of your paperwork with you (or an organized health notebook) and write down any questions or concerns that you want to talk over with your doctor so that you are prepared. 

First Impressions:
(1) Always try to schedule one of the earliest appointments that is available. Less waiting time happens in the morning. Also, because doctors are like us at our jobs many can be tired in the later afternoons. In the morning doctors are at their "freshest" because they haven't seen 10-20 patients yet.

(2) Be on time. I know. It is frustrating when the doctors are not ready but still be on time. I have found that this makes the office staff much happier and honestly you usually will get in more on time in your future appointments if you are on time from the beginning.

(3) Speaking of doctors offices: a key to every doctors office is the office nurses and the administrators. Get to know them. Get to know their names. Bring small gifts (it doesn't have to be big but just a little something). Write a thank you note. Express thanks to them. So often they are doing so many things and yet get overlooked.

The Appointment:
(1)Make sure to inform the nurse (or the doctor) of any changes in medication (or vitamins or herbs) - this is also the case for any tests, labs, or procedures that you have had done at other doctor's offices. Make sure that your doctor is up-to-date. If possible connect your doctors online (in a my chart situation/connect situation) and if that is not possible bring a copy of the results for the tests or labs that you have done so that they have everything. 

(2) When describing your symptoms, begin with the general picture and end with the specifics. Example: My stomach hurts. I feel nauseous in the morning.

I saw this in a doctors office years ago and there was no credit but I thought it was such a perfect idea. I started using that and it made a huge difference in communicating with my doctors. Instead of doing the opposite (starting with a specific and then getting larger) this truly has made conversations with my doctors easy and I have always walked away (when it is a doctor who listens) knowing that they are hearing what I am really trying to explain.

(3) Don't be embarrassed. Tell your doctor details. Be honest. It is honestly a waste of both of your times if you don't.

(4) Listen to suggestions that your doctor has. If you have questions about a treatment option or make sure to discuss this with them but do have an open mind.

(5) If you are having tests done make sure to ask when the results will be back and follow up with the test results. 

After the Appointment:
(1) Follow through on any calls that you said you would make.

(2) Follow the suggestions that the doctor mentioned. If you have any issues call the office to speak with the nurse.

(3) Don't forget to write and send thank you notes!

I hope you find these helpful! Happy Thursday friends!


  1. This is really helpful! I often feel rushed when at the doctor's office and that can lead to me getting flustered. I really like this approach to making sure you really get the most out of a doctor's appointment.

    1. Hey Laura! Thank you so much for stopping by! I TOTALLY agree with you: it is SO easy to feel rushed in the doctors office (I know that I often felt that way!) and then feel frustrated. I hope these ideas help! PLEASE let me know if you have any additional ideas! I am ALWAYS open for new and helpful ideas! :) Thanks again for stopping by Laura! Have a great day!

  2. This is so great! Im off to go check out your dr's appt notebook :)

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  4. When making the appointment, document the date and time of the call and who you spoke with. When I went for my annual checkup, they didn't have me scheduled! I couldn't remember who I had talked to but the appointment was definitely made. Luckily another doctor in the practice had just had a cancellation so they were able to fit me in.

    Silence your cell phone during the examination time.

    1. Judi- This is a GREAT idea and a wonderful point about silencing your phone! Thanks for your tips and thoughts!

      Blessings, Rebecca
      PS- Thank you so much for comment! I wish I could have emailed you back directly but unfortunately you are a no reply blogger. I look forward to hopefully connecting more in the future!