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

Esta guía en Español Young men's version of this guide
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female doctorsDo 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 have had and the dates you received them). You can get these records from your old primary care 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?

Your PCP will ask you questions about your:

  • General health, such as if you have headaches, sore throats, infections, and stomach aches.
  • Gynecologic history, such as when you started your period, how often you have them, and whether you’ve ever had a sexual partner or sexual intercourse.
  • Health habits, such as if you smoke, drink, use recreational drugs, and wear sunscreen and seat belts.
  • Nutrition, stress level, your mood today, and whether you have had problems with anxiety, depression, cutting, or attempting suicide.
  • Family history, such as whether any of your parent(s), aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, or grandparents has high cholesterol.

Check-ups will also include measuring your height, weight, and blood pressure. Your ears, eyes, throat, neck, heart, breasts, and abdomen (stomach) will also be checked.

During your teen years, you’ll get:

Girls and boys should get the human papillomavirus 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 will get these also.

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

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 also 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 listens to you and answers them. 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. 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 condition, 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.

Practice some questions to ask your provider, such as:

  • What happens to the bills from my visits here or to a gynecologist in the community?
  • If I’m covered by my parents’ insurance, will they find out about examinations and tests that are done on me?
  • What if I need birth control?
  • Can you tell me what happens to my lab test results? Who do you call?
  • What happens if I want to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or HIV?
  • What happens if you find out that I have a STI?
  • What happens if you find out that I am pregnant?
  • 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?

Do all PCPs also see adolescents and young women for reproductive health issues or Pap tests?

Some PCPs do, but not all. You should talk about any reproductive health questions that you have with your provider. If your provider doesn’t see adolescents and young women for reproductive health issues, menstrual problems, contraception, pregnancy, or Pap tests, she/he will help you find someone that does. This might be a gynecologist or an adolescent medicine specialist, a family medical provider, nurse practitioner or internist.

If you’re referred to a gynecologist, check to make sure she/he is an expert in providing care to teens. If it’s important to you, make sure he/she provides confidential care (be prepared to ask those confidentiality questions again), contraception, and STI screening. Depending on your beliefs, you might also want to make sure that he/she gives non-judgmental pregnancy counseling and gives you all the facts, so that you can make an informed decision about what you want to do.

How often should I see my PCP?

You should see your primary health care provider once a year for a regular check-up and more often if you have other health problems or you are taking medication.

Women who are 21 years of age or older should have Pap tests. A pelvic exam is needed any time you have symptoms of a vaginal infection, such as a new and unpleasant vaginal discharge, new lumps or bumps, or other problems. A Pap test should be done at age 21 to make sure that there are no warning signs of cancer of the cervix.

What if I don’t like my PCP?

Switch to a different PCP! You should go to a provider that 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.