If you are a teenager, you may feel ready to start going to doctor's appointments without a parent or guardian. Perhaps you have questions that you would like to discuss with your family doctor in private, you want to take greater control of your own health, or your parents are too busy to attend appointments with you. If you have never gone to an appointment without an adult before, there are some things that you should keep in mind to prepare you for the experience.
Ease Into Your First Solo Visit
It is normal to begin spending a little time alone with your doctor during each visit before you begin going to visits on your own. For example, first you may have an appointment and the doctor will ask your parent to step out of the examination room for part of the exam. Next, you may ask your parent to wait in the waiting room while you go in for an exam on your own. Then you may decide to go to your appointment alone, but allow your parent to call and schedule the appointment for you. Finally, you will schedule, plan, and attend your appointments alone.
This progressive approach allows you to get used to being alone with your doctor and handling your own healthcare. It is important that you only move on when you feel ready to. If you would like your parent with you while you are being examined, that is okay.
Decide Whether You Want to Continue With Your Pediatrician Or Move On To a Family Doctor
Many pediatricians are well-equipped to treat teenagers. However, it is normal for teenagers to feel like they are ready for a family physician as opposed to their pediatrician. If you want to find a family physician, you should ask your pediatrician for a referral. While it may be convenient to utilize the same doctor as your parents, it is important that you find a doctor that you can talk to easily and who is experienced treating adolescents.
Make a List of Health Concerns You Would Like to Address
It is easy to get overwhelmed during an appointment. Because of this, you may leave out important information about why you are visiting the doctor. To make sure that you get all of the information and medical care that you need, you may want to write down a list of things that you want to ask your doctor about. For example, if you are a female you may want to ask about gynecological exams or express concerns about your period. Alternatively, you may need to ask about when and how to complete a sports physical for the coming year or whether you need any vaccinations in the near future.
Be Prepared for a Variety of Questions
Besides giving you time to ask questions, going to the doctor alone will give the doctor time to ask you questions. Sometimes these questions may not seem related to your health. For example, the doctor may ask how you are doing in school, whether you have friends, and if you are dating. It is important to give honest answers to the questions the doctor asks because these help them determine factors that can contribute to your physical and psychological health. That way they can give you more specific information.
Know Your Rights Regarding Confidentiality
If you are going to the doctor alone because you want to discuss private matters without informing your parents, you should know the general guidelines regarding teenage confidentiality. In many cases, doctors can offer you similar confidentiality that adults enjoy. However, regulations vary from state to state. If you are concerned about something you discuss with your doctor getting back to your parents, you should ask your doctor about their specific policies before discussing it with them.
Visiting the doctor on your own is an important step towards becoming an adult and handling your own healthcare. These tips will help ensure that your first solo appointment goes smoothly.