Your appointments provide you with the opportunity to sit down with your healthcare practitioners and discuss how you’re feeling. “Appointments are an important tool to help your doctor, MS nurse or consultant review your condition and to ensure your treatment is on track,” says Health Psychology Specialist Clare Moloney. “But they are also a forum for you to ask questions, to discuss any new issues arising from your treatment or to voice any concerns or successes you may have noticed.”
Here are Clare’s top tips to help you make the most of each and every appointment:
Use the weeks in between each appointment to keep a note of any questions you might want to ask or any other observations you’ve had about your treatment. Not only will this help ensure you remember to ask all the questions that have popped up, but it will also help give your doctor and MS nurse a better sense of how you’re doing.
Plan ahead on the day, too, and arrive in plenty of time, so you have a few minutes to collect your thoughts in the waiting area and make any final notes.
If you are feeling nervous before a consultation, try some breathing exercises to help you relax.
“Having a practice run through the consultation beforehand with a friend – with you asking questions and your friend pretending to be the doctor or MS nurse – can also be a helpful way of easing the nerves and preparing,” says Clare.
“Try to remain positive and stay focused on the questions you want to ask, or the areas of discussion you want to know more about.” Keeping your mind focused on the job at hand – the consultation itself – can act as a tool of distraction, leaving you no time to think about being nervous!
“And try not to be embarrassed when talking about subjects like contraception – remember that your doctor and MS nurse have heard it all before (and probably even once or twice that day!)”
Consider asking a close friend or family member who is well informed about your MS and your treatment to go to the appointment with you. “Two sets of ears are always better than one,” says Clare. “Not only will your friend be able to offer moral support and help keep your nerves at bay beforehand, but they will be able to take notes for you so that you can focus on the discussion, and they can also ask any questions for you. You’ll also have a sounding board after the appointment – you can go back through your notes together and talk about what was discussed during the consultation.”
Take a notebook and a pen, so you can jot down the answers to any questions you ask, and also so you can make notes of any other new or interesting points your doctor or MS nurse makes.
Have the confidence to ask questions or ask for clarification when you don’t understand something. “By asking questions, you will not only learn more about your condition and your treatment, but asking questions and being empowered by the answers can help build confidence and make you feel like you are more in control of your treatment.” See ‘Get the best from your doctor’ for tips and advice on asking questions and talking to your doctor and MS nurse.
You don’t have to feel rushed – if you still have questions or concerns at the end of your appointment, ask for more time or make another appointment. It may also help to ask for a referral to talk to another healthcare professional who works with your doctor – for example, a counsellor to help you manage anxiety, or a nutritionist to help you make dietary improvements to fight infections. “You should aim to leave every consultation feeling happy and confident about the advice you’ve received,” says Clare.