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Talking To Your Doctor

Talking to Your Doctor+

Some people can feel a bit anxious about talking to a doctor. This can mean they forget, or don’t feel comfortable about asking questions. Doctors are there to find the best possible treatment for you. Follow some tips below to help your conversations with your doctor:

Write a list. Before your appointment, print out the results of your Self Assessment Tool and write down any questions you have. Have a think about:

  • Your symptoms
  • Your medications
  • Have you noticed any physical changes?
  • How have you been feeling emotionally?
  • Have there been any changes in the things you’ve been able to do day-to-day?

It may also help to bring along a friend or family member to support you. They can even ask the doctor questions for you if you do not feel comfortable doing this yourself.

Prioritise your list. You may not have as much time as you would like with your doctor. It can help to prioritise your list so that you can ask the most important questions first. Show your doctor your list and work through it together.

Ask for information. Your doctor is there to help you. Don't be afraid to open up, even if you think you may sound silly. Ask them questions. Ask them to repeat the answers if you do not understand them the first time. As a patient it is your right to go home feeling as though you understand your condition, your treatment, and what you can do to manage your RA at home.

Take notes. During your visit, it may help to take notes. Before you leave the doctor's office, take a few minutes to review your notes, pointing out anything you don't understand or that you may need repeated. It is important to fully understand the doctor's answers to your questions and any instructions about medications or taking care of yourself.

Remember, the more specific you are about how you're feeling, the better your rheumatologist will be able to assess whether your treatment is working adequately — or whether it might be time to try something different.

Your Team+

Your medical team may consist of lots of different people, all helping you with managing your RA. Your ‘RA Team’ may be made up of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, and at times dietitians, physiotherapists, and psychologists. Your RA Team can help you understand your condition and your treatment. They can also help you with your lifestyle and how to best cope with your disease.

Below is a brief introduction to the people in your RA Team:

Rheumatologist

Rheumatologists are medical doctors who specialise in diseases affecting the joints, bones and muscles. Your rheumatologist will diagnose your condition, track your symptoms and offer you choices for treatment. Your rheumatologist will be your most important ally in your fight against the disease.

Nurse

Your nursing team is another important ally. Nurses can provide the information and support you need to achieve your treatment goals and support you emotionally. Some patients form close bonds with their nursing team and know they can count on them to ask questions and to track their treatment plan.

Nurses also provide support to doctors, patients and other staff members; administer and monitor treatment; set up equipment; maintain a safe, comfortable clinical environment; and provide information about the disease state, treatment and home care.

Pharmacist

These days, pharmacists are playing a more central role in helping people with their health. Not only do they fill prescriptions, they can also answer patient inquiries about their condition and treatment, and help you stick with your treatment regime.

Dietitian

Supporting your body by eating a good diet can help your RA symptoms. Dietitians develop food and nutrition programs that promote good health, including healthy weight; educate patients, healthcare professionals and other individuals about the body, food and diet. Ask your medical team if a referral to a dietitian might be helpful for you.

Physiotherapist

Physiotherapists evaluate your joint and muscle mobility and strength in order to create a plan with you to help improve mobility and quality of life.

Psychologist

It is common for people with RA to have times where they feel stressed or down, and sometimes unable to cope. A referral to a psychologist from your doctor can help. A psychologist will work with you on a practical level to work out ways that you may better be able to cope emotionally and physically.

Questions to Ask Your Medical Team+

Going to see your doctor or nurse can be a little scary, especially if you are worried they might not ‘get’ what you’ve been going through. Use some of the questions below to help get your point across. You can also send your nurse the results of your Self Assessment Tool ahead of time, so they can see what’s been happening for you. Don’t be afraid to ask general questions about RA too, your medical team is there to help.

  • How does RA affect my body?
  • What will happen to my joints over time?
  • What will my quality of life be?
  • What sort of advice do you have for me on how to manage:
    • My pain
    • My fatigue
    • Swelling
    • My lifestyle …?
  • What sort of treatment do you think will work best for me?
  • How does this treatment work in my body?
  • How long will it be before I start to notice changes from taking this treatment?
  • What sort of lab tests/blood tests will I need to have?
    • How often should I have these?
    • Will you remind me to have them, or should I put them in my diary now?
  • How will I know if my treatment isn’t working? What should I do?
  • What sort of side effects are possible from my treatment?
    • What can I do about these side effects?
  • Is there anything I should avoid while taking my treatment?
  • Should I tell other doctors that I’m taking RA treatment?
  • How often should I make an appointment to see you?
    • How can I change this appointment if I need to see you sooner?

Click here to download this discussion guide as a PDF to print and take to your appointment. It includes a space to write your own questions.

Appointment Checklist+

To make sure you get the most out of your next appointment with your doctor or nurse, have a read through this checklist:

  • Find out if you need to have any blood tests beforehand. Give your nurse a call.
  • Take the results of your Self Assessment Tool with you, or send them through to your nurse beforehand.
  • Take a list of all the medications you are taking. Include any supplements such as multivitamins.
  • Take a list of questions that you might want to ask your doctor or nurse. See Questions to Ask your Medical Team for some help.
  • Take a notebook so that you can write things down.
  • To make examinations easier, wear comfortable clothes.
  • Try to arrive 20 minutes before your appointment in case you need to fill out any forms.
  • Take details of your medical insurance if you have it.
  • Take a friend or family member with you for support.

Additional Resources +

Self Assessment Tool. Use our interactive Self Assessment Tool to track joint tenderness and swelling, pain and fatigue over time. You can then see how well your treatment it working for you. You can also send your results directly to your nurse specialist.

Appointment Checklist. Good communication with your doctor can improve your health care. All questions are powerful and help build understanding. The more questions you ask, the more you will know your RA and the more control you will have over it. Click here to read and download a printable question checklist that you can take with you to your appointment.

Questions to Ask Your Medical Team. Going to see your doctor or nurse can be a little scary, especially if you are worried they might not ‘get’ what you’ve been going through. Use some of the questions below to help get your point across. You can also send your nurse the results of your Self Assessment Tool ahead of time, so they can see what’s been happening for you. Don’t be afraid to ask general questions about RA too, your medical team is there to help.

  • How does RA affect my body?
  • What will happen to my joints over time?
  • What will my quality of life be?
  • What sort of advice do you have for me on how to manage:
    • My pain
    • My fatigue
    • Swelling
    • My lifestyle …?
  • What sort of treatment do you think will work best for me?
  • How does this treatment work in my body?
  • How long will it be before I start to notice changes from taking this treatment?
  • What sort of lab tests/blood tests will I need to have?
    • How often should I have these?
    • Will you remind me to have them, or should I put them in my diary now?
  • How will I know if my treatment isn’t working? What should I do?
  • What sort of side effects are possible from my treatment?
    • What can I do about these side effects?
  • Is there anything I should avoid while taking my treatment?
  • Should I tell other doctors that I’m taking RA treatment?
  • How often should I make an appointment to see you?
    • How can I change this appointment if I need to see you sooner?
  • If my current treatment isn’t working what other treatment options are available?

Click here to download this discussion guide as a PDF to print and take to your appointment. It includes a space to write your own questions.

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