If your family was one of many who relied on a family physician or pediatrician for your healthcare needs, you may find yourself in your early 20s without a relationship with a primary care clinician. Whether you’re navigating the healthcare system as a young adult for the first time, or you’re new to a city and looking for a doctor, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Tryon Medical Partners internal medicine specialist Dr. Claire (Evans) Wilder weighs in on how to choose a primary care clinician, how to make the most of your appointments and how you can stay healthy in between.
How to find a healthcare partner
Dr. Wilder says you can think of your primary care clinician as the quarterback of your healthcare team – they are in charge of all of your healthcare information and getting you the needed resources. Although it may seem counterintuitive, finding and seeing a primary care clinician is especially important when you’re healthy. With a solid foundation, if something comes up in the future, they’ll have enough background to make the best decision for your care.
Dr. Wilder advises:
- Focus on clinicians accepting new patients. Not every clinician has the capacity to take on new patients. Finding those who are increases the likelihood they can see you when you need to be seen.
- Make it easy to see them. Ensure you’ve looked into the location of their office and their hours of operation to make sure they’re accessible to you. As Dr. Wilder points out, “If their office is way across town, you’re not going to make the journey as often, so choose somewhere convenient.”
- Consider clinician compatibility. It’s perfectly normal to feel embarrassed or even scared when going to the doctor. The goal is to find a primary care clinician who makes you comfortable. Take some time in advance to read their bio on the website, which often contains reviews from other patients and some of their interests. Making sure you’re well matched will yield dividends in comfort and compatibility.
“Remember that seeing them for the first time is the ultimate test,” Dr. Wilder notes. “If you don’t connect with the clinician, resume your search! It’s totally fine to see a couple of people before sticking with somebody.”
How to make the most of your appointment
It can feel unnecessary or silly to go to the doctor when you’re feeling perfectly fine, but starting a relationship with a clinician when you’re well is never a waste of time.
“With young adults, their appointment often consists of a head-to-toe exam so I can get a sense for anything that might need attention, as well as screenings and lab work to diagnose underlying health issues,” Dr. Wilder explains. “These appointments are a great way to get a quick gut check on your health and answer any questions you might have.”
To make sure these appointments are as helpful as possible, Dr. Wilder shares:
- There are no dumb questions. If a concern about your health has crossed your mind at any point, Dr. Wilder emphasizes, it’s important to ask. It’s a win-win: either it’s benign and talking about it puts your mind at ease, or in the event it’s something more serious, you can intervene early.
- Be honest about your sexual health and substance use. Your clinician will not judge you! If you’re worried about a sexually transmitted infection, say something. Likewise, if you worry that you’re drinking too much or may have a drug problem, bring it up.
- Think of it as a check in on your general lifestyle. Use this time to reflect on your lifestyle – diet, exercise regimen, caloric intake – and make sure you’re on track to keep yourself healthy. When you’re young, it’s important to consider how to live now to enjoy life later.
- Make sure you’re caught up. The majority of vaccinations are given in childhood. Dr. Wilder often hears from young adult patients who are curious about whether or not they’re caught up with what they need.
“Visiting your primary care clinician can be a good reminder to locate and maintain a copy of your vaccination record,” Dr. Wilder points out. “If you provide the office with a copy, they’ll ensure you have what you need for your study abroad trip or first job.”
If you or your loved one needs primary care in the Charlotte area, visit us to start a relationship with a clinician today.