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Talking to a healthcare professional

In this article we give you tips for talking to a healthcare professional.
A woman sitting at a desk with a pen to her lips and holding a piece of paper.
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Talking to your doctor or healthcare professional about your mental or physical health can be difficult, especially if you are not used to talking about how you feel.

Read through this checklist or print out a paper version in the Downloads section below, and write some notes before you go to your appointment.

Before your appointment

Here are some questions to think about before going to your appointment. Preparing for your appointment will help you to remember exactly what you wanted to tell your doctor or other healthcare professional about your symptoms and concerns. This information will also help your healthcare professional identify the issue and treat your symptoms.

  • What are your symptoms, and how long have you had them for? Are the symptoms constant or episodic (come and go)?
  • How long do they last?
  • Do they happen at specific times?
  • Do they cause pain? How would you describe the pain? (For example: sharp, a dull ache, throbbing)
  • Is there anything that makes the symptoms better, or worse?
  • What is the impact of these symptoms on your life?
  • Do they affect your ability to work or socialise?
  • Do they affect your ability to carry out your daily activities e.g. walking, climbing stairs, exercise or hobbies?
  • What actions have you taken to treat or manage the condition? Have these actions been effective in reducing the frequency or impact of the symptoms?
  • Are you taking any medication? What is its name? When did you start taking this medication and why are you using it?
  • How often to you take this medication and how much do you take? Do you have any allergies or reactions to medications?
  • Is there anything else that could be affecting your health?
  • Are you currently on a diet?
  • Are you having difficulty sleeping lately?
  • Do you smoke cigarettes? Drink alcohol? Use other substances?
  • Have there been any major events (death of loved one, accident, moved house etc.) in your life recently?
  • Do you have a family history of illness?

During your appointment

Below are some questions you may want to bring up with your healthcare professional during your appointment.

  • What is the name of the disease or the condition? How is it caused?
  • Are there symptoms that might develop where I should seek immediate medical help?
  • How might the condition develop? Can it go away completely or is it life-long?
  • Does it get worse with age?
  • Are there any long-term effects on my life with this condition?
  • Can it go away and then re-occur? Is there a possibility of relapse?
  • Is there anything I can do in the meantime to help manage the symptoms?
  • Do I need to have any tests done to get a diagnosis? What do these tests involve?
  • Are the tests safe?
  • How long will I have to wait for a result?
  • What are the different treatment options?
  • How effective is each treatment option?
  • What are the benefits and risks of each treatment option?
  • What is the cost of each treatment?
  • Are there less-expensive tests, treatments or procedures? What will my insurance cover? Are there generic drugs instead of brand-name drugs that I can use?
  • How long will the treatment take to begin working?
  • Are there any side effects of the treatment?
  • What is Plan B – if the first course of action does not work?
  • When should I meet with you (my healthcare professional or specialist) again, to re-evaluate the treatment plan?
  • Do I need to be referred to a specialist or consultant?
  • How long is the waiting time for a referral usually? Is there a difference between private care vs. public care waiting times?
  • How are the referral costs covered? Insurance vs. public care.
  • Are there any organisations or additional resources that can offer me support?
  • Do you have any written or online material/pamphlets about my condition or treatment?
  • Is there anything else I should know?

We have included a version of this checklist in the Downloads section below. You can print this out, or save it to your phone to help you refer to the questions on the day.

© Trinity College Dublin
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