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How to get the most out of your Doctor’s appointments

By Nicki Scholes-Robertson

Nicki Scholes-Robertson is a physiotherapist who lives in Armidale NSW and in 2010 became unwell and it was discovered that she had CKD. She commenced Peritoneal dialysis in 2014 and later in that same year received and living donor transplant form her little brother Drew. She is now studying for a PhD in improving access to dialysis and transplantation for rural and remote Australians.

Having gone from only seeing a Dr if I was having a baby or about once a year, to then the treadmill of specialists, tests, hospital visits, then more doctor’s visits has been a huge change for me. It was a struggle at first as I had always been able to remember things and verbalise my needs well, but especially towards the start of dialysis and the first year of my transplant, this all changed as I felt too unwell at times to remember what I needed to ask or then to remember that information.

This was also compounded by the fact that I had to attend a lot of the appointments by myself as my husband was required at work and to run around after our 3 teenage children. All my appointments were at least 115 kilometres away and some 535km for my transplant. Often I would walk out of my appointments not fully understanding the plan or missing vital pieces of information, so I developed a new strategy. A love of lists.

I would rule up a piece of paper and put it on the fridge.

  • Weeks or days before my next appointment so that I could jot things down as they came to mind.
  • The night before an appointment my husband and I would sit down and go through all my scripts and check if they were about to run out.
  • Any questions he had were also put down on the list.


The list included:

  • Questions re blood test results
  • Side effects or any new issues
  • Any plans for what is next
  • Prescriptions to get
  • When is my next appointment?


My top tips would be:

  1. Take someone with you if you can – 2 minds and memories are better than one
  2. Always write down anything you need to remember- without it we often forget it as soon as we walk into the Doctors office
  3. If you don’t understand something ask- it is your body and your health.
  4. If you have a lot to ask especially a GP, book a double appointment as it takes a huge amount of time pressure off the both of you.
  5. Find Doctors and specialists who take the time to talk to you and your loved ones about what is important to you.
  6. For those living in the bush or remotely – ask if telehealth is available as it helps a lot with transport costs and safety.


To Download Nicki’s Dr Appointment Preparation Sheet, click here.



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