As you move out of your childhood home and into a new city, you’ll need to make sure you have adequate medical care in your adult life. It’s important to establish healthcare once you move out of your parents’ home and enter adulthood because, despite feeling invincible, your early 20s will throw their share of health issues at you. This is why it’s important to know how to make appointments, establish a relationship with your primary care doctor, and advocate for your own health.
Getting in the door
When it comes to making appointments and establishing care, your university will have a healthcare centre where you can speak with nurses, doctors, and specialists. If you can walk-in to make appointments, go at the earliest possible time. This ensures that a nurse will speak with you the same day. If you have to call ahead, try calling as early in the morning as possible!
This advice also applies to urgent care centres or walk-in clinics, not just university clinics. The earlier you put in your request, the more likely you are to speak with a professional the same day. This expedites the appointment process; once you speak to a nurse, they can refer you to a doctor and you’ll be able to make an appointment. Actually getting that appointment can take a while. The median wait time for specialist visits in Canada is 78 days with a maximum of 6 months allowed in-between your referral and your appointment. Being proactive and getting regular checkups is the best way to mitigate emergencies and make the most out of the healthcare system.
Building a relationship with your doctor
Once your doctor has actually confirmed the appointment, it’s time to express all your concerns and work on building a relationship with them. If this is a new doctor, be sure to know your family’s medical history as well as your own and to bring that with you to the appointment. This helps doctors know what to look for! For example, my family has a history of hypothyroidism, so I make sure to tell every new doctor I see so they know what tests to run and what to look for.
I’ve also found it incredibly helpful to mention your health goals and any changes you’ve noticed in your health or your lifestyle. Doctors are here to help, and it’s important to be honest with them! Being honest about your substance use, sex life, and general lifestyle will help build a strong rapport with your doctor and will also help them to better diagnose you.
Advocating for yourself
Unfortunately, many doctors don’t take young adults (especially women and people of colour) seriously. Because we are often metabolically healthy (i.e. good blood pressure, blood sugar and HDLs) many young adults find themselves dismissed by healthcare professionals. Healthcare is not exempt from racism, sexism, or classism. For example, some doctors are taught in medical school that Black people have a higher pain tolerance and thicker skin than white people. This is provably false, and while we can’t eradicate racism from the system overnight, it’s important to be aware of the potential biases your doctor is walking into the room with and be prepared to address it.
If you’ve experienced medical discrimination, you can contact a healthcare advocate in your province who will inform you of your medical rights and help you receive proper medical care here: https://canadianhealthadvocatesinc.ca/patient-rights/
Ultimately, it’s critical to know your medical history, write down your symptoms and their frequency, and to do your research. Research is especially important if your symptoms are chronic; if you don’t have a detailed understanding of your own symptoms, doctors are much more likely to dismiss the issues as lifestyle or stress-related and not give you the help you need! Stress and lifestyle can absolutely cause problems in your life, and a medical professional will certainly help you solve these problems, but if you feel strongly that there is another issue don’t shy away from expressing that concern to your doctor. Despite years of medical school, doctors don’t know everything and can need their memories refreshed. If you have an inkling about the cause of your problem, share that with your doctor and work with them to either confirm or refute your theory. At the end of the day, doctors are fallible people who could deny you care for a variety of reasons, both intentional and unintentional. As a patient, it’s important to arm yourself with knowledge and approach your appointments with confidence and an open mind.
Telehealth has become a popular option for healthcare in the COVID world. Most services offer telephone or video appointments and allow healthcare providers to meet with patients who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see them in person. According to the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) telehealth services are comparably effective to in-person services for a variety of medical conditions ranging from mental health to cardiology. Most telehealth services are free and offered through the provincial health system. You can find information for your province here: https://cwhn.ca/en/yourhealth/provincialhealthlines
Once you’ve received care or a diagnosis, you have to make the most of your treatment. It might seem obvious, but lifestyle habits like eating well, exercising, and sleeping well can make an astronomical difference in your treatment plan, either for better or for worse. It’s also important to discuss medications with both your doctor and pharmacist. Pharmacists often have more information about your specific medication than doctors do, and as members of your healthcare team, they will be able to give you the best advice to make the most out of your treatment. It’s also important to follow up about your treatment and progress so healthcare professionals can make adjustments as necessary.
Hopefully these tips help you adjust to finding healthcare and a support system as an adult! Keep a look out for upcoming articles on mental health and other lifestyle topics, or if you’re looking for a bit more fun, take a look at some of our other articles!
Liddy, Claire. “How long are Canadians waiting to access specialty care?” 2020 Jun; 66(6): 434–444. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7292524/
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Dryden, O., and Nnorom, O. “Open Access Time to dismantle systemic anti-Black racism in medicine in Canada.” CMAJ, January 11, 2021, 193(2) E55-E57, https://www.cmaj.ca/content/193/2/E55?fbclid=IwAR3A-dMeJRt9-ziyPKtunHK12ciWg2FcbQ4G5-GU_ctjfqgowaONsjMAGBQ
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Quebec Health. “Healthy lifestyle habits.” N.D., https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/advice-and-prevention/healthy-lifestyle-habits