Personal Health

Choosing a Primary Health Care Provider (PCP): Check-Ups

Do I need to bring anything to my first check-up?

You should take a copy of your health records, including your immunization record (a list of all the vaccines you’ve had, and the dates you received them). You can get these records from your old provider, or maybe from your school. Also, bring any medicines you are taking, or bring a list of them. Ask your parent(s) if you have any allergies and if you’ve ever had any allergic reactions to any medicines you’ve taken in the past, so that you can tell your new PCP.

What will happen at my check-up?

Talking: Your PCP will ask you questions about your general health, such as if you have headaches, sore throats, infections, and stomach aches. He/she will also ask you about your health habits, such as if you smoke, drink, use recreational drugs, and wear sunscreen and seat belts. You’ll also be asked about your nutrition, stress level, your mood today and whether you have had problems with anxiety, depression, cutting, or attempting suicide. You will be asked about your family history, such as whether any of your parent(s), aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, or grandparents has high cholesterol.

Physical Examination: Check ups will include measuring your height, weight, and blood pressure. Your ears, eyes, throat, neck, heart, and abdomen (stomach) will also be checked. The physical examination shouldn’t be painful. If something hurts, you should tell your provider. Your health care provider will check your muscles, joints, and nerves to make sure everything is working well.

Your provider will probably want to examine your penis and testicles (testes). This is done to make sure that your body is developing normally and to check for testicular cancer.

During this part of the exam you may be asked to “turn your head and cough”. Your provider is checking for a hernia. A hernia is a weakness in the muscles of the abdominal wall that might allow part of the intestines to poke through. It’s not something you can see, but a hernia might be painful. Your provider will place a finger at the top of the scrotum. When you cough, your provider is able to feel a hernia if there is one. A hernia can be fixed with surgery.

During your teen years, you’ll get:

  • Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis booster vaccine
  • Human papilloma virus series
  • Meningococcal vaccines (a bacteria that causes meningitis and blood infections) at ages 11-12 and then again at age 16
  • An annual influenza vaccine
  • IPV (inactivated polio vaccine) if you didn’t have it as a child

Girls and boys should get the human papilloma virus vaccine series to protect against the virus that causes several types of cancer (including cervical, penis, and throat cancer) and genital warts.

If you haven’t already gotten 3 hepatitis B shots, 2 mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccines, 2 hepatitis A vaccines, and 2 chickenpox vaccines (if you haven’t had the disease), you’ll get these also.

Before traveling abroad to countries in Latin America, Asia, or Africa, find out if you’ll need to get any additional immunizations.

What should I do at my first check-up?

Be open and honest with your health care provider. You need to decide if you feel comfortable talking to and sharing information with him/her. You need to ask any questions that you may have. Write them down before your appointment so you don’t forget. See how well the provider answers your questions and listens to you. Are you happy with the provider at the end of your visit?

How do I ask about confidentiality?

Before or at your first visit with your PCP, ask about confidentiality (privacy). This is very important and can be hard to bring up. Ask if your health care provider will keep information private about your sexual history, contraception, and other worries. Discuss what your health care provider and you will do when there’s something important, such as a serious illness, depression, or life-threatening conditions, which should be shared with your parents or someone else. Your provider should bring up the subject but if not, you can start a discussion when you’re about 12-13 years old, or at the first visit.

Here are some questions that you might want to ask:

  • What happens to the bills from my visits?
  • If I’m covered by my parents’ insurance, will they find out about examinations and tests that are done on me?
  • Can you tell me what happens to my lab test results? Who do you call?
  • What happens if I want to be tested for STIs or HIV?
  • What happens if you find out that I have a STI?
  • Is there any information that you have to tell my parents?
  • What happens if I have a big problem and need help telling my parents?

When should I see my PCP?

You should see your PCP once a year for a regular check-up and more often if you have other health problems or you’re taking medication.

What if I don’t like my primary health care provider?

Switch providers. You should go to a health care provider who you trust and you feel comfortable with. Your provider should be patient and should show you respect.

Go through the same steps listed above to find a new PCP. Make a list of names, check on qualifications, and call the providers’ office to ask questions. Remember to check and see if the provider(s) is a member of your health plan. You should let your current PCP know that you are changing providers. Make sure that you get any medical records that your PCP may have, so you can bring them to your new provider.

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