How to Score a Doctor's Appointment Fast

Okay, this is maddening: It takes an average of 21 days to get a doctor's appointment, according to a national survey. But if you follow our insider advice, your doc will see you now. By Jessica Girdwain, REDBOOK.

INSTEAD OF: Complaining that you don't feel well
SAY: "My fever is 103"

Doctors keep a few emergency slots open daily--the trick is getting the receptionist to slide you into one of them. "Write down your most severe symptoms before you call, and read them verbatim," says Leana Wen, M.D., an emergency-room physician. It's best to use specifics, so replace "I have a fever and my head hurts" with "My fever is 103 degrees and my headache is so severe I haven't gone to work in the last two days."

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INSTEAD OF: Saying you are a new patient
SAY: "My best friend comes to Dr. Smiley!"

Trying to get in to see your friend's gynecologist or internist? Call the office and tell them her beloved patient sent you. "Like in other areas of life, sometimes getting a doctor's appointment is about who you know," says Trisha Torrey, a patient advocate and the author of You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes.

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INSTEAD OF: Asking for the doctor
SAY: "Is the nurse practitioner available?"

If your regular physician is booked solid, request an appointment with a nurse practitioner or physician's assistant, Torrey says. They'll be able to see you sooner, and if symptoms are beyond their reach, they'll call your doctor in to see you on the spot. Problem solved!

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