Booking a medical appointment can make anyone anxious, especially when you have to do it in your non-native language, but that’s no reason to put off getting medical care. Whether you have an urgent health concern or just want to arrange a check-up, it’s important that you know how to express your needs and concerns and communicate your ailments or injuries. You need to be well-prepared to arrange an appointment at a time that suits you and the service provider and to reschedule the appointment, if absolutely necessary.
Here we will prepare you for making appointments in English effectively and getting the best healthcare experience you can.
- Starting the conversation
- Explaining what you need
- Injuries and complaints
- Speaking with the doctor/dentist
- Canceling, postponing or rearranging an appointment
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Starting the conversation
Time to pick up the phone and make the dreaded call! Naturally, it’s best to be as polite as possible to the receptionist, their job is to help you get the care you need after all, so be sure to greet them accordingly. Start by giving them your name and stating the reason for your call.
A good opening line might be: “Hello, this is Joe Scott speaking. I would like to make an appointment to see Dr. Smith, please.”
Or perhaps: “Good morning. This is Jody Millercalling. I would like to arrange an appointment with one of your dentists, please.”
Explaining what you need
Know when you will be available for an appointment beforehand and be ready to tell the receptionist when you can attend an appointment. For instance: “I have to work during the day on Tuesday and Wednesday. Do you have an appointment available on Thursday or Friday?”
You may be asked for the nature of your complaint so that you can be referred to the appropriate doctor or dentist. There is no need to go into the details if you don’t wish to or feel that the reason for the appointment is too personal but the following common issues are sure to help you out.
Injuries and complaints
- I have not been feeling at all well lately, so I would like to make an appointment to see Dr Bosang, please.
- I have hurt/injured/cut/bruised/sprained my finger, leg, arm etc.
- I have a pain/swelling in my stomach/chest/neck/back etc.
- My hand/leg/foot/finger etc. is hurting me.
- I have had a severe sore throat/headache tummy ache for four days, so I need to see a doctor urgently, please. I think I need a prescription for an antibiotic.
- I wish to speak to a doctor about a family planning matter, please.
- I need an appointment with the dentist, please. I have a cavity in my tooth which is hurting me very badly.
Speaking with the doctor/dentist
When you attend for your appointment the doctor will ask you about your symptoms or concerns, so it is best to have these well-prepared so that you don’t forget important information. The doctor is trained to be professional and empathetic, so don’t hesitate to tell them the nature of your problem, i.e. that you have been experiencing bouts of pain in your tummy, for instance, or that you have been feeling very low recently. Be honest and straightforward as doctors have heard it all and they just want to help you get better.
The conversation with the doctor could go as follows:
Doctor: What can I help you with today, Joe?
Joe: I have been having severe pain in my stomach, doctor.
Doctor: How long have you been experiencing these symptoms for?
Joe: It has been going on for about four days and I get cramps several times a day.
Doctor: Oh dear! What part of your abdomen are you getting the cramps in?
Joe: At first it was in the middle but now it is low down on the right-hand side.
Doctor: Have you been able to eat and drink or have you been sick?
Joe: My appetite has not been good at all and I do experience some nausea most days. I was not able to sleep at all last night with the pain, even though I took painkillers.
Doctor: I’m sorry to hear that, Joe. I will need to examine your abdomen. Can you lie down on the couch over here please, so that I can check your abdomen to see where it is tender? Does it hurt when I press here?
Joe: Yes, that hurts a lot.
Doctor: I will check the other side. Does it hurt on this side?
Joe: No, that side is fine.
Doctor: In order to make a diagnosis I will need to send you for an x-ray, Joe! Take this referral letter to the Radiology Department at the hospital. Don’t worry. The x-ray will determine what treatment you will need.
Joe: Do you think I will need an operation?
Doctor: I hope not Joe, but we have to be certain.
Joe: Thank you, doctor.
Doctor: You’re very welcome Joe. Be sure to bring your health insurance details with you. Best of luck, Joe. We will be in touch with you later in the day when we hear from the hospital with the diagnosis.
Canceling, postponing or rearranging an appointment
Once you know how to make an appointment with a doctor in English, you may also need to know how to change your appointment time and/or date if something urgent comes up. Phone the doctor’s or dentist’s surgery as soon as possible, so that the receptionist may be able to offer the appointment to someone else. The conversation might go as follows:
Receptionist: Hello, how can I help you?
Jody: My name is Jody Miller. I have an appointment with Dentist Rodgers for Friday at 3.30 pm. Unfortunately, I cannot attend. I’m sorry for the inconvenience. Would it be possible to rearrange the appointment for next week, please?
Receptionist: That is no problem, thank you for letting us know in good time. Let me check Dr. Rodger’s schedule for next week. You are in luck, she has a cancellation on Tuesday morning at 10.30 am. Will you be able to attend at that time?
Jody: Yes, thank you. That would be perfect.
Medical matters and beyond
Hopefully, you now have the information you’re going to need on how to schedule an appointment in English with a healthcare professional! This will help you in other areas of life as well because arranging and keeping appointments are key skills in the workplace and in personal relationships too. So whether you’re preparing for a job interview, arranging a date or planning a birthday party, you’ll be well-prepared to do it in English!
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Leona has her roots in the South of Ireland, where she grew up on her family farm. She went on to study World Politics at Leiden University College, The Hague and then completed her MPhil in International History at Trinity College Dublin. Leona has now settled in Berlin, having fallen in love with the city. In her spare time she is working on perfecting her German in anticipation of her doctoral studies, during which she plans to study modern German social history. Her hobbies include bouldering, dancing and reading a healthy mix of history books and corny fantasy fiction. You can find more info about her on LinkedIn.