Memorize these tips before your next doctor's appointment.
If you want to know what you can do to get a doctor to listen to you, or how to spot a shoddy surgeon before you're on the operating table, ask a nurse. Here is the insider advice these health pros whisper to family and friends. Use their intel to get the highest-level medical care.
Shoot the breeze at your own risk
"Don't talk to nurses when we're giving medicine unless you have questions about it. You have a right to know what you are taking and why, but chit-chat distracts nurses and can lead to medical errors."—Jennifer Schmid, RN, Founder of Oasis Wellness in Santa Clara, California
Press your doc for 3 key tests
"Ask to check your levels for vitamin B, vitamin D, and magnesium. Doctors don’t always do this routinely, but they should. Low magnesium levels can affect sleep, particularly during perimenopause and menopause; sometimes you may need to take 400 mg of magnesium at night. Many of us are also lacking in B vitamins due to our diets and the stress we encounter, so you may need a daily vitamin B complex, as well as a vitamin D supplement."—Renee McInnes, RN, VP of Business Development for Norwell Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice in Norwell, Massachusetts
Be empowered...in a nice way
"Avoid using 'What are you doing?' type questions, and instead ask more specific ones, such as 'Can you tell me how this medicine works?' or 'Is there anything that is important to look out for?' Questions that are blunt put both physicians and nurses on the spot and they may become defensive if they suspect you think they are not doing a good job."—Mary Kate Grady, RN, at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (PIH Health) in Whittier, California
Beware old botox!
"Make sure you see the doctor or nurse open the Botox vial and dilute it in front of you. If that does not happen ask, 'When was this vial reconstituted?' Once reconstituted, Botox has a very limited life and will not be as effective if it is not fresh. Also ask, 'How many units of Botox am I getting?' Usually it should be in the range of 20-60 units depending on the areas treated and severity of lines. It can be easy and common to get ripped off with Botox. If you pay by the area instead of the unit, you have no way to know if your provider over-diluted the product, in which case you get worse results than you paid for. If they are diluting it correctly, they won't mind the questions."—Cary Christensen Deuber, CRNFA (certified registered nurse first assistant) in a plastic surgery office and star of The Real Housewives of Dallas
Do these two things to avoid Rx mistakes
"Ask your doctor to file an electronic script rather than give you a handwritten form; this has been shown to cut down on drug errors when filling prescriptions. You should also double check the medication and dosage of the script before leaving with the physician or nurse."—Jennifer Betts, NP, in Los Angeles
Know exactly what you're on
"Bring your prescription list with you to every doctor appointment. I like to keep a picture of the label on my phone just in case—this also helps when needing to reorder."—Linda Poth, RN, in St. Louis
Vet the surgeon and the hospital
"Before scheduling surgery, ask what your physician’s outcomes are like. Also find out what the hospital’s outcomes are like, and the rehospitalization and infection rates. Ask if your hospital has joint commission accreditation, indicating a high standard of care, and Magnet designation, which is the gold standard for nursing excellence. Secondly, if you or a family member is hospitalized, don’t hesitate to ask if members of your healthcare team have washed their hands! Some studies show less than 30% of healthcare workers in the ICU of a hospital do, but this is essential in avoiding the spread of infection, including potentially antibiotic-resistant infections like MRSA or C. diff."—Sue Henke, RN, with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California
Go ahead and be anal
"Bring a notebook with you to each doctor’s visit. When the physician or nurse gives you information or instructions, repeat exactly what you heard to verify that you understood. You might feel silly, but even small misunderstandings can have devastating effects when a person’s health is at stake."—Elena Capella, RN, Professor of Nursing at the University of San Francisco