Saturday, February 22, 2014


I am a list maker.  

I suspect I must have a touch of ADD or OCD or some other letter soup. I've ALWAYS made lists.
My mantra during college was, "What's the plan?"  If there wasn't a coherent and cohesive plan for something, anything, I always felt out to sea.  My Mother-in-law made fun of me one day, saying, "You can't plan everything, Michele." 

One of the things magazines tell you to do before a doctor's visit is to "make a list of questions to ask your doctor."
In my experience, most doctors HATE lists. They find them to be...overwhelming.

 I, on the other hand, LOVE lists.  Lists are wonderful.  I have a PLAN when I have a list.  I don't have the last minute, hand on the doorknob as I'm leaving the room, "Oh, doc, I forgot to ask you about this crushing chest pain" experience that totally blows my schedule to bits. 

Just because you have a list, doesn't mean we need to deal with all of the questions at that visit. 

A list gives me a road map.  It allows me to triage a patient's concerns.
BUT....Be prepared to hand over the list to me.  It works better if I can look at the list and get an idea of the following:

1. What are the three most important things on this list? In fact, please highlight those for me beforehand.

2. Are there some super SCARY things that need to take priority, putting everything else on the back burner? 

 3. Are there some super simple things I can deal with in one or two seconds?  Like looking at a mole?

You see, doctors think differently than other people.  We think about what can kill you, first;  what can really mess you up, second; and what is annoying but not likely to do major harm, third.  
Lastly we think about problems that are not concerning at all.  

We want to address problems in that order, too. But, we need your agenda, first. A lot of times people save the worst for last, trying to talk themselves into bringing up the topic they're most afraid to broach.

 It's magical thinking. "If I don't talk about it, nothing bad will happen."  


Burying your head in the sand and ignoring things is always a bad idea.

Telling your doc the biggest problem when your appointment time is almost over is always a bad idea.

You don't want an annoyed, rushed person dealing with a potentially life threatening issue at the end of an appointment!  You want a laser focused, un-distracted, un-rushed physician, using all of their skills to deal with your problems.

So, screw up your strength and courage.  Write down your list of problems and complaints.  List them in the order you're most concerned about, highlighting the top three concerns.  
Don't expect to get through a list of 10 complaints in one visit. Have realistic expectations of time management. 

Don't be afraid to tell your doctor that you are terrified that you have cancer.  Or a brain tumor.  Or heart disease.  If we don't know your concerns, we can't address them.  




  1. I love that you love my lists! ;)

    1. And I love that you love that I love your lists!

  2. Thanks, Michele, for sharing your insights from a doctor's POV. I, too, like lists. :-) -Peg S.

    1. Thanks Peggy! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  3. ha! Me too! love making lists... making lists feels complete.

    I find it funny that as a doctor, the lists of your patience overwhelm you. As a patient, TMI of medical information and nomenclature from a physicians point of view OVERWHELMS me.

    An example would be a too much detailed information regarding the effects of insulin, leptin, blood sugar and weight gain from eating say, simple vs. complex carbohydrates. My doc went into a huge explaination for this and directed me to several movies and websites, some helpful, most extraordinarily B-O-R-I-N-G.

    Just tell me what to eat more of... and what to avoid. The whole explaination in medical terms just makes my eyes glaze over. Keep it simple, my brain just can't process all your brainiac information in one sitting!

    Have you seen the South Park video on the woman clique of List-Makes? Hysterical!

    1. Funny that you should mention that because I am planning a blog post on "doctor-ese."