Ask a Nurse: If you’re concerned, get it checked out!

Ask a Nurse The ExCS site has teamed with a registered nurse and paramedic with a background in healthcare education and public health. Married to a former-CS, the Nurse would like to share their experience with the healthcare system, and answer any questions former-CS may have!  The Nurse will NOT get involved in diagnosing or giving medical advice, but if there are questions folks have related to going to a doctor, explaining medical terminology, how to advocate for yourself in healthcare, and so on, they might have a perspective that can help.  


Thank you everyone for your feedback on our first post! This post is in response to a comment from our first Ask A Nurse Post (slightly edited to protect everyone’s privacy).

From our Facebook group comes the following dilemma:

When I am able to access health care services one of my biggest fears is finding out that I had ailments that would have been preventable had I gone sooner (like in childhood) or that the current ailments that I have have progressed and only gotten worse by going untreated…. Am I being irrational? It makes me nervous, I definitely want to go, I have no hesitations about going, but I’m worried.


Ask A Nurse Responds:

Hi all, the feedback from my first post was really inspiring, building on that I’d like to respond to a comment regarding fear of going to see a doctor. From the sounds of it, it’s not that the person didn’t want to go to the doctor or feared how the doctor might react to hearing the person had never been to a doctor, but what the person might find out by going to see a doctor. *

I can empathize with that. I understand that the fear of discovering you’ve been carrying around a preventable or curable illness could be emotionally overwhelming. I’m not sure how to push someone to overcome those feelings, except to say, many things can be solved if addressed early. That and the idea, the more often you do something, the easier it becomes. Going to the doctor that first time can seem intimidating to the point of panic. It goes against everything you’ve been taught. My concern/fear is, I’ve heard enough horror stories of folks in CS who delayed care for so long, that they go past the point of being able to fix it. More than likely whatever you’re facing is something that can be addressed, but you’ve gotta take that first step and see someone. Again, I’m not here to judge CS, I was never in the religion, I grew up Catholic (Catholicism has its’ own set of issues), and as I like to say, I’m a “recovering Catholic.” But, if you’re concerned about a potential illness or nagging pain, get it checked out. The sooner you can figure out the problem, the sooner you can deal with it. 

Whenever you do decide to go to the doctor, how do you know who to see? This blog has a great description on how to find a primary care doctor, and I would encourage you to review that post. I will add though that if you need a specialist, in the US, most health insurances will require you to start with your primary care doctor and get referred to a specialist (as it sounds, a specialist is someone who focuses on a specific field of medicine). For instance, if you’re concerned about some weird heart palpitations, you’d go see your primary doctor first, and then that doctor would refer you to a cardiologist for further examination. This can be time consuming, but it saves money (at least for the insurance company). 

My biggest piece of advice, and this applies to anyone, anytime you do go to the doctor, bring a friend. Preferably someone you trust and who is familiar with the healthcare system. My mom was a registered nurse, when she was older, even though she was an experienced nurse, my sister and I would take turns going with her to appointments (sometimes we’d both go with her, and other times my sister would conference me in via FaceTime). The advantage to having someone with you is they can think of questions you might not or hear things you might not. Doctors can talk fast; another set of ears helps. Reportedly patients forget 40-80% of what is said during their appointment and 50% of the rest is heard incorrectly. I usually tag along to my spouse’s appointments to help interpret jargon and ask questions. Take notes during the appointment too. Most phones have a notes app or something similar. Old-fashioned pen and paper work well too and it’s less likely to be confused as texting 😉

It’s been pointed out that bringing a friend may be difficult given the pandemic.  At many hospitals and doctors’ offices, visitors are limited and, in some cases, not allowed at all.  My solution for this is simply to phone a friend.  Recently, a close friend of mine was diagnosed with a rare cancer.  The family asked if I could help.  As I couldn’t be with my friend directly, my friend simply called me, put me on speaker and gave verbal permission for the medical team to speak with me (some places might require you to sign a permission form).  The physician and nurse then spoke with my friend while I listened in, took notes, and asked questions.  As long as you, the patient, give permission, the healthcare team should never have an issue with you conferencing a friend in via phone (and if they do have an issue with it, well, that’s a red flag).  

Also, feel free to interview the doctor a bit during that first encounter. I’ve shopped around for different doctors. I ask questions about how long they’ve been practicing, how long they’ve lived in the area, stuff like that. All I’m trying to do is build a rapport. If someone gives me a bad vibe, I find someone else. “Bedside manner” is important, especially if you’re looking for a long-term doctor/patient relationship. I also look for subtle things, how do they treat the nurses and other staff members? If they’re a jerk to their staff, they’re not someone I want to give my business to.   

Regardless, nobody is more invested in your health than you. Nobody knows what you are feeling better than you. Trust those instincts. You are your own best advocate. If something feels off, get it checked. Maybe it’s nothing, but the peace of mind afforded by knowing it’s nothing, or at least something that can be dealt with, is better than carrying around that stress in your head.  

*Quick side note, instead of a doctor, you might see a nurse practitioner (NP), or you might see a physician assistant (PA). I personally have been seen by all of the above and have no qualms being examined by either a doctor, NP, or PA, especially for routine stuff. For clarity in this post, I used the term “doctor,” but that could refer to any of the aforementioned disciplines.


Additional Former-CS-based Resources

One Reply to “Ask a Nurse: If you’re concerned, get it checked out!”

  1. Love the idea of Taking a friend or a friend on speakerphone. Thank you!

    A friend once offered to go to my migraine doctor with me and it helped later. She knows medical stuff and I sure don’t. She was able to answer questions for me later that she understood or remembered from the appointment that I couldn’t remember.

    I didn’t think about having a friend support me in this way as a standard idea !! My spouse should have qualified to do this too, but they never did it.

    Thank you for helping us Ex Christian Science folks. There is so much we don’t know.

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