When you visit a doctor’s office, you usually spend a lot more time with the nurse than you do with the doctor.
Nurses take your vitals, jot down your questions and concerns, go through your intake forms, and collect information about your health and medications. They also guide you through the appointment from start to finish.
So, when it comes to health care, nurses — who make up the largest percentage of the medical workforce — have more than a few great tips to pass along to patients.
The following 10 insider tips from nurses can help you avoid wasting money and ensure you get the most out of your next health care appointment.
Mention all supplements and medications you take
Along with any prescription medications, always tell your nurse about any herbal supplements, daily vitamins, and over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen that you take on a regular basis.
These types of medications and supplements could interact poorly or dangerously with specific drugs. Making sure your doctors know you are taking them can help the physicians make the right call about certain types of prescriptions.
Some medications and supplements also have side effects that can impact your health. Your nurses and doctors need all the information you can give about medications — prescribed or not — to make an accurate diagnosis and form the right treatment plan.
Stay hydrated before a blood draw
If you don’t like being poked and prodded while a nurse tries to find a good vein, know this: When you’re well-hydrated, veins stand out more, making them more accessible to a nurse during a blood draw.
You don’t need to go overboard and massively increase your water consumption. Just drinking the recommended amount of water for your weight and age should be enough.
As long as you don’t feel thirsty when you walk into your blood draw appointment and keep your water bottle nearby, the experience will be easier for both you and the health care worker.
Follow your lab instructions to the letter
There’s an important caveat to staying hydrated before a blood draw: If your nurse tells you not to drink any water before your visit, heed the instructions. And if they tell you to fast for 24 hours prior to your blood draw, do it. Without insurance, the average cost of bloodwork can easily run you a few hundred dollars. You want to get everything right the first time.
Follow these and any other pre-visit instructions the nurse gives you to the letter. Otherwise, you might have to reschedule your procedure for another day.
Don’t demand information from your nurse
While a nurse might be able to provide some lab results or answer questions about a medication, it’s up to the doctor to deliver any news and explain results.
Ask your nurse follow-up questions, but leave the official diagnosis and explanation up to the doctor instead of badgering the nurse for information.
Try not to distract the nurse
Whether you want to ask a question about your care or simply enjoy chatting with your nurse to pass the time, remember that there's a time and a place for conversation.
So don’t distract nurses who are recording crucial information or doing other important tasks. You can make a nurse’s job easier by providing all the requested information. Then, let the nurse focus on one crucial task at a time.
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Be honest and realistic about your pain
Dishonesty doesn’t have a place at your doctor’s office, and that includes talking to the nurse about pain.
Steer clear of blowing your pain out of proportion, but don’t downplay how you feel either. Your nurse needs clear, accurate information to convey to your doctor. That way, you get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Help health care workers keep hospitals sanitary
Nurses do their best to keep rooms contamination-free, but it’s hard to accomplish that goal without your help.
So if family and friends are coming to visit during your hospital stay, ask them to wash their hands before they swing by. Additionally, remind them to always use the hand sanitizer stationed outside doors or in other places before they enter a room.
Remember that nurses maintain your charts and records
Depending on their department and specialty, nurses often spend a lot of time keeping their patients’ charts up to date. This includes:
- Logging medication details
- Recording what happened during a visit and your follow-up instructions
- Storing your file correctly in the office’s electronic charting system
Charting can be a lot of boring technical work, but getting the details right is essential to your health plan. That is why nurses spend a lot of time and energy on the task.
As we said earlier, try not to distract nurses with chatter while they’re working on your chart. Be both honest and thorough as your nurse asks for any information that will end up in your chart.
Don’t keep your questions to yourself
Not sure if you’re supposed to fast before your blood draw or when to start taking your colonoscopy prep medications? Nurses want you to know that you can always ask.
It’s much better to call and make sure you understand the instructions instead of risking getting them wrong. Messing up here can result in the need to reschedule your appointment, even after you've arrived. Nobody wants that.
Don’t treat nurses as inferiors
Contrary to some cruel but persistent stereotypes, nurses aren’t people who weren’t smart enough to get into medical school and had to settle for second-best.
Nursing is a valid, viable career choice on its own, and nursing degrees and certifications require years of intense study.
Treat your nurses with respect. After all, without them, the health care establishment couldn’t survive.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that nurses make the medical world go around. Take these tips to heart the next time you visit the doctor and interact with your nurses.
They will appreciate your consideration, and your visit will go a lot smoother. Getting the most out of your next appointment can help improve your health and avoid wasting money on health care.
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