Seeing A Pulmonologist For The First Time
Last updated: September 2022
I have been thinking a lot about my respiratory care and I could not help but think back to my first respiratory referral to a pulmonologist. While it was not a match made in heaven, I did learn a lot from that experience.
Reflecting on my first pulmonologist appointment
My experience began with the initial referral from my family doctor. I had become increasingly unwell, and the rescue inhaler and the combo inhaler that my family physician had prescribed (along with a repeated course of oral corticosteroids) just were not doing the trick anymore. I was being referred to a specialist. Honestly, I went in with no expectations, barely prepared, and - quite frankly - I was naive.
I wasn't sure what to expect that first time. I thought that the pulmonologist would guide me through the process. Unfortunately, this did not happen. What I know now is that I needed to be prepared for that first appointment. If I could go back and do it again, here's what I would do differently.
Preparing for your first appointment
Have all the information you can! Include why you are there, previous spirometry results, full PFT (pulmonary function tests), labs, medications you have tried, etc. This will allow you to have a good foundation for your discussions.
Know what your goals are
Is your goal to find symptom control? Address side effects? Explore a new treatment? Having an idea of what you would like to gain out the appointment will help you stay on track.
Don't only ask questions about your asthma, but also about how that practice or clinic works, when you will receive test results, and how to contact the office for urgent matters.
Bring someone with you
It is easy to get caught up in emotions or even to just feel overwhelmed by information. Having someone else in the room to focus on what the doctor is saying and take notes is a great asset. While it may not always be possible to have someone with you, it can be helpful to make yourself a cheatsheet, just to keep your appointment on track.
Ensure your appointment stays on track
It can be easy for appointments to get derailed, especially when you are seeing a new physician and perhaps are unfamiliar with their practice. Therefore, I usually write current treatments and goals for every appointment. Other information that I include is there a specific test, treatment, or concern that I would like to have addressed.
Additionally, this is also a great place to write down questions that you may have and take a moment before your appointment concludes to reference your sheet. I have had appointments where I have written the questions down and then I forgot to ask them. Depending on the practice and your physician it may be difficult to ask questions afterward.
Don’t be afraid, take a deep breath, and trust your inner patient. Remember you are there to work with your physician. What are your tips for preparing for an appointment with a new physician? I would love to hear about your experiences.
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