Hospital Visits

How to make the most of your time with a doctor or nurse

What you need to know about preparing for hospital visits

You may have been thinking about your appointment in a dermatology clinic for a long time.  There can be a lot to consider.   

Time with a doctor or dermatology nurse is precious, but services can be stretched.  So how can you make the most of your time?

We have developed a step-by-step guide to help you to prepare for your next visit about your skin, whether you are going with psoriasis, eczema, acne, or any other dermatology condition.

You and your GP has decided to look into specialist care for your skin condition. This is usually because your condition is complex, isn’t responding to standard treatment, or a specialist opinion is needed.

Thinking ahead and preparing will help you and your dermatology team plan your care and treatment, and help you get the most from your outpatient appointment.

Whether this is your first appointment or you have had several appointments already, this short guide can help you plan ahead for your consultation. 

You may receive your appointment by letter, phone or text. Keep the details of the appointment safe, and consider marking the date on a calendar, or put a reminder in your phone so that you don’t forget your appointment.

We are currently developing condition-specific guides for psoriasis, eczema, HS, acne, rosacea, and skin cancer. 

Bring along a pen and paper

Before your appointment

  1. Prepare a list of questions you would like to ask your doctor or nurse.
  2. It may be helpful to bring a list of any tablets, injections or creams that you are currently taking or using, along with details of how long you have used them and how you have responded to treatment. Sometimes, it might be useful to check with your pharmacist if they can print a list of your most up-to-date list of prescribed medicines. Another helpful tip is to take photographs of your tablet containers and or creams on your phone, so you can show them to the doctor or nurse.
  3. If you are using topical preparations such as creams/ointments/lotions/mousse, your doctor or nurse may ask how long a tube/container/canister is lasting you. Try to keep in mind when you started using the preparation, and how much and how often it is being applied. This can help the doctor or nurse understand if the treatment is suiting you and guide their assessment about whether the strength and quantity is appropriate for you.
  4. Bring a pen and paper to make notes. You might want to write down a reminder of what the doctor or nurse has said during the consultation.
  5. If you feel that you would like extra support, and if appropriate, you might consider asking a family member or friend to attend with you.
  6. If it is your first appointment at a hospital or clinic, it is often a good idea to look up its location and plan how you will get there. It may also be helpful to look into local transport options or parking arrangements.
  7. Some people find it helpful to take photos of their skin (especially when their skin condition flares), and show them to their doctor or nurse during their consultation. Sometimes a flare has subsided by the time your appointment takes place and it can be helpful to show your doctor or nurse what your skin looked like during the flare.

On the day of your appointment

  1. It may be useful to bring some or all these items to your outpatient appointment: appointment letter, medical card (if you have one), contact details e.g. your own mobile phone number and next of kin, GP name and address.
  2. Allow plenty of time for your visit, as other appointments may overrun.
  3. Check in and register at the appropriate location e.g., reception, kiosk and/or department at the time you have been given.
  4. Check your appointment details to see if you have been asked to arrive a few minutes before your appointment time.

During your appointment

  1. A member of your dermatology team will introduce themselves to you if you do not know them already.
  2. During your appointment your healthcare professional may talk about; your medical history, your symptoms, your response to treatment (where appropriate), whether you may need tests (e.g. blood tests, a skin biopsy) or receive results for any tests you have already had.
  3. It is important to tell the healthcare professional if you are pregnant, your current medications including complementary or alternative treatments, or have any allergies.
  4. Report any symptoms such as itch, pain, burning or stinging as well as anything else that may be worrying you. It is also important to mention any recent infections or illness.
  5. If you are having difficulty in understanding what is being said, it is important to say this to your health care professional. It is okay to ask them to explain or clarify something again, or write it down for you.
  6. In dermatology practice, it is common for your doctor or nurse to perform a full skin examination, to help in their assessment of your condition. Try not to feel shy or embarrassed if your skin condition is present in a sensitive/ intimate area. It is important to discuss all areas affected including sensitive and intimate areas, so that it can be treated effectively.
  7. In dermatology clinics, healthcare professionals may use special assessment/measurement aids to help make a visual estimate of the severity and extent of your condition. Some examples of disease specific assessment/measurement aids include the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI), Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI), and the Hurley staging system in the case of Hidradenitis Suppurativa. These types of measurement tools assist healthcare professionals in their initial and ongoing assessments, including monitoring response to treatment and informing decisions around most appropriate management in different types of skin conditions.
  8. Living with a skin condition can affect people in different ways, and it is not uncommon in dermatology clinics for the doctor or nurse to ask you to fill out a questionnaire such as the Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI), before or during your consultation. This questionnaire consists of 10 simple questions and aims to measure how much your skin condition has affected your day-to-day life over the last week. This questionnaire is a good opportunity to express how your skin condition is affecting you, physically, emotionally, socially and sexually, so try to be as honest as you can when answering the questions and don’t be afraid to say how you really feel.
  9. Often there is not much time during a consultation, so please remember to ask any questions you have prepared in advance, or similarly anything that has arisen during the consultation.
  10. Write down any important information or advice given, as this can helpful; particularly if you require further follow-up care.

Systemic and Biologic Treatments

People attending hospital appointments for a skin condition may be prescribed systemic or biologic treatments (tablets or injections).

There are new treatment improvements and developments in dermatology every year, your doctor is best placed to discuss these with you.

It is also natural to have questions about any treatment, including your concerns about any possible side effects, or any potential immune system impact. Both doctors and specialist nurses in dermatology can help with these questions.

It is usual for your doctor or nurse to perform a full body skin examination during an appointment

At the end of the appointment

  1. Ensure you understand the information shared during your consultation and any next steps or plan for further treatment.
  2. Double check about any prescriptions, blood tests and treatment plan.
  3. If your treatment plan involves applying any topical preparations to your skin e.g. creams/ointments etc., ensure you understand the strength of the preparation, where on the body it is to be applied, the quantity (how much applied on each application) and for how long (duration of use).
  4. Ask for a contact name and number of someone you can contact in the department, in case you have further questions about your treatment.
  5. If you are to come back for another appointment, clarify when this will be, so that you know when to expect to be reviewed again.
  6. If for any reason you are unable to attend your appointment, it is important that you contact the hospital/clinic as soon as possible to cancel and reschedule your appointment. Appointments are precious – this will allow the hospital/clinic offer your unwanted appointment time to another person who may be waiting.

For more information, visit our Information Booklets and Resources Section.

If you need guidance or support about managing a skin disorder or have questions about how best to prepare for a hospital appointment, contact the ISF Helpline for free support and information