04/24/2012 03:23 pm ET Updated Jun 24, 2012

Doctor's Office Etiquette: Turn Dr. No Into Dr. Yes the Next Time You Visit a Medical Professional

If you want good service before, during, and after your office visit, refraining from "complaining" is bound to help. This is not always easy, especially if you're in pain or you have other appointments and the doctor is running late, but usually he or she has a good reason, such as an emergency. You are a patient, so be patient. (If you believe that your doctor or dentist habitually overschedules, however, it's okay to say something to the staff -- or find another doctor or dentist.)

Here are some other tips for making your office visits go as smoothly as possible:

• Plan your appointments in advance. Add your annual and repeat visits to your calendar. (I like to schedule all my annual checkups during my birthday month to treat myself to good health.)

• Write down any questions you may have ahead of time, and bring paper and a pen for taking notes. Medical professionals always seem to be in a hurry, but it's important to ask them questions and make note of the answers. Be proactive about your health: Don't be a passive patient.

• Don't show up late. If you have new insurance or your address has changed, arrive 10 minutes early to handle paperwork.

• When seeing a new doctor, show up at least 15 minutes early. You'll need to fill out a form when seeing a new doctor, so don't forget your driver's license, insurance information, and your medical history or any information on your medical history you have available.

• If you think you might be contagious, be considerate of others. Don't shake hands with anyone if you think you have a cold or the flu. And any time you cough or sneeze, be careful to cover your mouth.

• If you have an emergency, call ahead. When you feel you need to see a doctor or dentist right away, don't just show up without an appointment. Most offices have more than one medical professional, and by alerting them ahead of time the staff can plan for you to be seen by someone else if your regular doctor or dentist is unavailable.

• Don't be afraid to ask questions. You should be able to ask your doctor or dentist anything about your medical condition and your treatment, and that goes for details about medications: how much to take and for how long, should they be taken with other medications (and if so, which ones), what are the side effects, and so on. This visit may be your one time to do this for the year!

• Be polite to the office staff. They control access to the doctor or dentist, so they can be your best friends!

Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (, certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on and