Navigating Healthcare: Pre-Appointment Strategies to Access Care

October 28, 2021

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Background  Challenges  Strategies  Considerations  Our Voices

Pre-Appointment  During Appointment  Post-Appointment 

When facing healthcare barriers, youth are creative and resist oppression in different ways. At the cost of our individual and communal time, energy, and resources, we seek out and create forms of care that work for us, our needs, and our communities. Strategies for self and community care can be hard to find and articulate. To address this, we spoke to youth in our communities. In this resource, we will share how some of us navigate the healthcare system before our appointments.

The information in this resource comes from the lived experiences, wisdom, and care of youth in our communities. You or other folks might have different ways to get the healthcare that works for your needs! This information comes from community knowledge and does not provide medical or legal advice.



  • We can ask people that we know for recommendations and their experiences. Here are some ways to start this conversation:
    • “Hey, I’m struggling to find a good GP. Do you have any suggestions?”
    • “I’m helping a friend who wants an ADHD diagnosis. Do you know where they could look?”
  • We can also reach out to our communities (e.g. Facebook groups, organizations) to get more information. Here are some example posts:
    • [Online] “Info request: Does anyone have recommendations for a doctor? Here are some things that are important to me: Not fatphobic, QTIBIPOC, sex-positive
    • [Online] “Looking for a queer counsellor in the Prince George area for sliding scale services. Any recommendations?

Shared Perspectives

  • We may feel more comfortable seeking services from practitioners who share our perspectives on health.
    • For instance, many folks are interested in naturopaths and acupuncturists for their connections to holistic health.
    • If available, we can also search for information that might align with our needs on practitioner websites (e.g. cultural backgrounds, approaches, etc.)

Organization-based information

  • Looking up information about the clinic, provider, and/or procedure can help us know what to expect and if we want to find alternatives. We can also call clinics or search for resources on their websites.
  • We can also consider calling HealthLink BC (811), a 24/7 service with health navigators and connections to other healthcare professionals.
  • If we are connected with other practitioners (e.g. a family doctor), they may be able to provide information about other healthcare services. 

Community Knowledge

  • We may personally know people who have similar healthcare experiences (e.g. peers, friends, family). We can consider asking folks for their perspectives and/or advice.
  • We can also find support through online forums (e.g. Facebook groups/pages, Reddit) or from people who share their experiences online (e.g. Instagram, Youtube, blogs).

Writing questions

  • We can often feel anxious during appointments. Writing down our questions and concerns can help us remember and stay focused. If we are worried about being rushed, we can practice asking practitioners for more time, or we can pre-plan which questions to prioritize



Consulting Others

  • When we are having a hard time navigating healthcare systems and situations, we can consider asking others for their perspectives.
    • Brainstorming solutions with folks who have similar or shared experiences can help us know what to do. We can do this with people we know. We can also consider hosting community groups and discussions.

Asking for Support

  • Going to appointments can often be very stressful. Asking for help from people we trust is one way to support ourselves. Here are some ideas we have come up with.
    • When we are scheduling appointments, we can ask someone to sit with us as we call or to read over our emails before we send them
    • We can ask someone to drive us to and/or pick us up from our appointment
    • We can also ask others to come with us for physical, emotional, and advocacy support. This can depend on our comfort levels, the clinic rules, and peoples’ schedules. It can be nice to have someone there to distract us, help us remember what to ask our practitioners, to witness interactions, and more.
      • For many of us, it can be a process of trial and error to find people who can support us with our appointments. Here are some questions that might help us figure out who to ask:
        • How comfortable do I feel around this person?
        • How does this person contribute to my sense of safety?
        • What shared experiences and identities do we have?
        • How politicized is this person? Do we align in our values?
        • How might this person be able to support me?
        • Do I have any concerns about asking this person to come with me?

Support Workers

  • We may be able to find support workers who can share information, help us communicate with our practitioners, and accompany us to our appointments.

Trusted Practitioners & Organizations

  • If we know trusted practitioners or organizations, we can consider asking them to communicate with other practitioners. Here are some examples of this that folks shared with us:
    • "My family doctor was not willing to provide me with a lab request, and then my naturopath who is more affirming and someone who I trust more, offered to write my family doctor a letter about the things we’ve been working on. Or sometimes, they’ll provide me specific things they can ask my doctor or things I can say to get a specific thing."

    • "My clinic kept asking me to participate in a study even though I kept saying I didn’t. They wouldn’t leave me alone, so I stopped going. Until a couple of outreach workers asked me what was going on and I told them. I had three different organizations phone the clinic to tell them to stop it. They’re like ‘This is not okay. You can’t continue to ask them these things. They have stated multiple times that they are not interested and now I’m speaking on their behalf because they no longer want to talk to you. If you want to continue giving them care, this subject is off the table. Don’t mention anything like it or they will stop getting care from you.’"

Many of us feel nervous before appointments. It can hard to be calm or self-compassionate in these moments. Finding distractions, like spending time with others or watching a show, can help ease our nerves. It may also help to think about what we need to feel ready and safe. This can provide insight on ways to support ourselves.

Worried about missing an appointment?

  • If we have access to electronic devices, we can set reminders on our phones, computers, and online calendars.
  • We can set alarms (on our phones, watches, or clocks) to remind us before the appointment begins
  • We can write notes with the appointment details and put them in places that we are likely to see
  • We can ask the clinic if they have an option for reminder texts, emails, and calls
  • We may want to ask others to check in and remind us
  • Planning extra time to get to an appointment can help avoid extra stress

Worried because you’re not sure what to expect?

  • We can call clinics ahead of time to ask what our appointment might include and how to prepare
  • We can ask people who have experience with your type of appointment or find information on online platforms
  • We can share our concerns with our practitioners beforehand and talk to them about our boundaries

Worried about mistreatment or discrimination?

  • Bringing a support person (e.g. a friend, family member, support worker), can provide a source of comfort. They may also be able to witness interactions or advocate for us.
  • For those of us who are Indigenous, some health authorities, such Fraser Health, have Aboriginal Health Liaisons that we can connect with

Planning our day

  • We can think of ways to reduce stress in other areas of our life. For example, we can try to have fewer obligations on the day of our appointment. We may be able to take time off from school and/or work or ask others to help with other responsibilities (e.g. grocery shopping, laundry, childcare)
  • We may be able to ask trusted others (e.g. friends, family, coworkers) to pick us up after our appointments.
  • Some of us might want to make our living situation more comfortable to come back to by cleaning before we go.

Planning a fun or relaxing activity 

  • One way we can care for ourselves is by planning an enjoyable activity before we go to our appointment. This can give us something to look forward to and provide some structure for our day.
  • We can also ask others to check-in or spend time with us after appointments. Many of us struggle to know who to go to for support. Here are some factors we might want to consider:
    • What kind of support am I hoping to get (e.g. emotional and informational support)?
    • In what ways might they be able to meet this need?
    • How comfortable am I with this person?
    • Can this person hold space for me and my feelings?
    • How does this person listen to and empathize with me?
    • Do I trust this person to keep my information confidential?
    • Do I feel pressured to explain or justify things to this person?
    • What experiences do we share that might help them understand my perspective?
    • Are they willing to learn about my values around healthcare?
  • It can be hard to ask for support. Here are some ways we can ask:
    • “I have an appointment coming up. Can we go for tea after?”
    • “Can I meet you at the park on Sunday around 3:00 PM?”
    • “Thanks for checking in. I have some questions about top surgery and last time you said if I had any questions, I could ask you. Is that still okay?”
    • “I’m really confused about some things my doctor said and I know you’ve got a lot of experience working in healthcare. Could you help me understand this?”

Processing appointments

  • If we have the capacity to and would like to, we can plan time to unpack and process our experiences. This can look like setting aside time to reflect and talk to others. Some prompts for reflection are provided in the “After” section.

Online Healthcare Services

  • We can look into telehealth services (e.g. TiaHealth, online counselling services) or ask clinics if they offer online/by-phone appointments.
  • We can also consider services that provide requisitions online (e.g. Get Checked Online).

Peer-led Support

  • Finding peer-led support (e.g. organizations, online resources, workshops, community support) can also be more accessible and less intimidating. It can also be a great source of guidance, validation, and information.

 Support that works for us

  • Many of us have connections to and find support from culturally affirming “traditional” medicines, spirituality, and self-medication.