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AARP Expert

Dealing with CORONAVIRUS and seeing your doctor

I work in a small rural hospital in the primary care clinic as a social worker and therapist. In one week's time, the way we deal with patients has changed RADICALLY. I don't know if your doctor's clinic is taking the same steps as ours is, but, just in case, here's what YOU might experience, along with tips on what YOU might want to do to protect yourself, your loved one, and other people:


1. Don't come down to the clinic without calling first. Many doctors' practices are radically limiting the number of patients who are present at one time. This means keeping the waiting rooms as free of people as possible. Instead of having you or your loved one come into the office, your question or issue may be dealt with over the phone, or with something called 'telemedicine', which involves using your smart phone or computer to be 'seen' by a nurse, primary care provider, or specialist. By calling the doctor's office and speaking with the nurse or medical assistant, you might not have to leave your home at all.


2. If you do need to be seen by a health professional, you may be seen by someone coming out to your car in the parking lot or driveway. Seriously. You'll be told to drive up, and you may have your vital signs taken, asked some questions, and then be directed to go to the pharmacy, or back home. Or, you may be directed to a walk-in clinic, the physical therapy department, or the emergency department, depending on what's going on. All patients are being screened for a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing before anything else is done. If you come for regular injections, say, you might receive the shot in the car. I know it seems weird, but keeping you in the open air protects you from germs and the Covid-19 virus that might be floating around the hospital/clinic, and will protect the hospital/clinic from the virus if you happen to be a carrier. 


3. Be prepared to be in your car for a while. Don't be surprised if you are directed to a tent in which you or your loved one has questions to answer, symptoms to discuss and temperature taken before you are directed onward. There might not be an easy path to a bathroom. You and/or your loved one might be escorted to where you're going as hospitals keep careful track of who's in the building at any one time.


4. if you or your loved one has a cough or runny nose, consider wearing a mask. We have only a certain number of health professionals and we don't want them to catch whatever it is we're dealing with, whether it's a common cold OR the novel coronavirus.


5. Be patient with all medical staff. This is an extremely confusing time and advice to medical personnel is changing HOURLY. 


6. Good luck.

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