Community Views: Do Rheumatologist Appointments Stress You Out?
Last updated: March 2023
Visits to the rheumatologist can be incredibly stressful, especially if you see a doctor whose suggestions have not proven helpful. We wanted to find out more.
Real patients, real stories
To start a conversation about doctor visits, we reached out on the Psoriatic-Arthritis.com Facebook page and asked: “Do rheumatologist appointments stress you out?” Nearly 300 community members responded, offering tips on stress management and doctor visits. Here is some of what they shared.
Understand that visits can be frustrating.
About half of the community members who responded shared that their rheumatologist appointments are frustrating. Sometimes, it is because the doctor does not remember the information shared at the last appointment. Other times, the doctor does not offer much help or support.
- “Every appointment with the rheumatologist feels like it is the first visit. For 7 years, I have been seeing the same doctor every 3 months, and he still acts as if we have never met. This is so frustrating!”
- “I never feel that anything makes me feel reassured when I leave.”
A few community members shared that managing expectations helps them manage stress and doctor appointments. After a handful of visits, you learn how much can be tackled in 1 appointment.
- “I have a much more realistic expectation about what will be achieved in 1 appointment, and sometimes that will not be much.”
Keep notes on what was discussed during the appointment if you do not remember. This will help you know how much can comfortably be covered in your next doctor visit.
Make sure you see the doctor and not a PA
Some community members enjoy meeting with the physician assistant (PA). If this works for you, great. But if you expect to see the doctor, this is something to ask about before choosing a rheumatologist.
- “I get irritated that I rarely see the rheumatologist. Instead, his PA comes in and tells me 1 thing and then leaves the room.”
If you currently have a rheumatologist who passes you off to the PA, it is OK to request that your appointment is with the doctor if that is what you want. If this request is not granted, it might be time to look for a new doctor.
Find a doctor who will give you ample time
One of the biggest complaints in the psoriatic arthritis community is that doctors rush appointments. It is a source of stress to feel hurried or not have time to ask questions. Instead, it is a much calmer experience to have a doctor give you the time you need.
- “I saw mine yesterday. He is so wonderful. He spends all the time I need. He will even help me with other issues.”
- “This doctor walks in. He is there for 2 minutes and then walks out.”
- “Your max time is 20 minutes for a visit. I have my list of questions. He has his questions, and those are the same every visit. Then he will use my time to dictate his notes. Then the appointment is over.”
Choose a rheumatologist who listens
Another common complaint was that doctors did not listen. The community members who were happiest were those who found rheumatologists who listened and asked questions.
- “It seems they do not listen to us at all.”
- “I love my rheumatologist. He listens and does a thorough exam every visit.”
- “I have a great rheumatologist. He really listens and addresses all my health concerns, even if they are not related to psoriatic arthritis.”
You are paying for a complete visit, so it is OK to hold out for a doctor who makes you feel heard.
Ask for paperwork ahead of the visit
A couple of people shared that the previsit paperwork is a cause of stress. One way to manage this stress is to call the office and request that they email you the paperwork ahead of time so that you can fill it out before the visit. Then, on the day of the appointment, there is one less thing to worry about.
- “Just the paperwork is stressful. They ask a zillion questions and do not give you any time to fill it out.”
Find a rheumatologist that will discuss more than medicines
Drugs can help with psoriatic arthritis, but so can lifestyle changes. Community members shared that they find it helpful when their doctor is not rushing to only prescribe medicine but instead takes a holistic approach and makes lifestyle recommendations.
- “All they do is suggest a new medication.”
- “My rheumatologist spends less time with me than the nurse checking my meds.”
- “My rheumatologist is amazing. He listens to my issues, offers encouragement, and discusses options or changes we can make to my meds.”
It is great when a doctor offers support and encouragement, recognizing that living with psoriatic arthritis is stressful. Consider sharing your story.
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