When we think about going to clinic at the hospital we think about it as having to wake up really early, getting there before the sun rises and then leaving when the sunsets only to be seen for 5 – 10 minutes and being told “everything is good and keep doing what you’re doing- see you in 6 months”.
Clinic is necessary for patients with diseases and conditions that don’t require hospitalisation at that moment but require out-patient follow-up. Whether you’re going for the first time as a referral or going for a 3 or 6 month follow up, here are some tips to ensure you have the best clinic experience you can get.
Find out what time your clinic starts.
Sometimes, clinics may be in the morning or afternoon. You wouldn’t want to arrive for clinic at 5:30 am only to be seen at 5:30 pm (true story). This also prevents you from being late as well. Sometimes when you’re late you will end up having to be rescheduled.
If you’re travelling from afar, speak up.
Yes, a lot of the specialist centres are far away from where many people live. You might be able to speak with the doctor and explain that you’re coming all the way from x via public transportation and what they may do is suggest that you speak with the intake nurse who might be better able to facilitate you. I’m not saying this will always work, but it’s worth a shot! Clinic also tends to be on a first come first serve basis, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t some wiggle room.
Clear your schedule
Unfortunately, clinic can be a whole day thing. Sometimes the residents who see you may have to discuss your case with a more senior doctor- and all that takes time. If you can’t wait you might end up having to reschedule. You usually know your dates in advance but if you’re still unable to clear at least half of the day you can consider calling to reschedule. This is also another scenario where there might be some wiggle room once you speak up and ask politely.
Bring all your documents, results, prescriptions etc.
Even if you think it is irrelevant or there’s a copy in the docket bring them. Keep all important paper work related to that (or any) health condition in a folder and carry it with you. This really can impact that visit, leaving a report at home might delay treatment because it was needed to rule in or rule out a condition. When in doubt, just carry everything!
Bring all your medications
A lot of times we can’t remember the names and doses of our medications so just bring them with you. It’s more than just seeing what the names and doses are but maybe there might be changes in how you take those medications or there needs to be improvement/ refresher course on your technique for taking some medications. Think an asthma pump. Sometimes we need to see if your technique is what’s hindering your asthma control.
Prepare for Clinic
Clinic is usually a long wait so bring food/ money for food so that you don’t get hungry. Walk with something to pass the time, so most persons bring their tablets or a book to read. If you’re accompanying a child or elder prepare adequately for them taking into consideration food needs, bathroom needs and bring things that will keep their minds active.
Dress appropriately, here I’m not talking about following the hospital dress codes (which you should of course) but I mean wear clothes that is easy to get in and out of. Don’t wear your tightest jeans and all the shape wear you own on clinic day. My suggestion is to wear a simple loose top and bottoms that are easy to slip in and out of, as well as, shoes that don’t take too much time to get in and out of. The same goes for dressing your children, dress them in clothes that takes no time to remove and put back on and are not too tight.
Know about who you’re accompanying
This one is more so for patients who need to be accompanied. If you usually carry your grandmother to clinic but this visit is Aunty Sandra taking her, remember to update Aunty Sandra on what has been happening and give her all the documents and medications needed. This is important because you aren’t always going to see the same doctor and even then it’s a good chance they won’t remember all the details anyway. You might argue and say all the information is in the docket, it’s just a follow-up visit, but this is an inaccurate assumption. Questions will be asked in that visit that cannot be answered in that docket- and sometimes you might not even have a docket. So once someone needs to be accompanied to the clinic, the person accompanying them should at least have some basic knowledge as to why they’re going to clinic and how they have been between that visit and the last.
Always bring extra
You never know what will happen, bring extra money, extra credit, extra diapers, just bring extra. A lot of times you might come to clinic and the doctors realise you need to be sent to Accidents and Emergencies or you need an X- Ray right away. Always walk with extra cash and your health card if you have one.
Many persons rely on clinics to keep them healthy and sane, these are just a few tips to make the experience more streamlined and efficient. How many of these do you practice? What are some others that I’ve left out?
Samantha C. Johnson