A cosmetic surgery consultation with a plastic surgeon can be a tremendous source of anxiety. From what I perceive on my end, meeting a doctor for the first time to discuss a personal flaw can be very embarrassing. To me, it’s all in a day’s work: a time to visit with a new patient, get acquainted, examine and discuss concerns, and come up with solutions. I’m not sure there is anything I can tell a perspective patient that will minimize anxiety (maybe other than taking a valium before their visit!) But I do have some suggestions on how to best approach your consultation so that you will get the most from it.
- Take a chill pill. Relax. It simply isn’t so bad. Yeah, it’s unusual in some ways, but you will soon learn it’s just another day in the office for us. This is your time to shine and let the process unfold. I’m a plastic surgeon. My canvas is the Human Body. Although you may believe that this is the first time that I am witnessing the source of your embarrassment, I can assure you that it is not.
- Do some research before you come to the office. This will help you to be informed about the various procedures prior to the consultation and will also help you to understand the language that we use in plastic surgery. Always choose a reliable source for your plastic surgery information. The Internet is full of misinformation and downright baloney. If you want to know what a reputable cosmetic plastic surgeon sees in his practice, just ask me. I am more than happy to share with you my experience. I dare say you might find it very refreshing and comforting. The best website for information is www.plasticsurgery.org. This is the official website of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
- Come with an open mind. Each and every day you are exposed to media bombardment about plastic surgery complications and bizarre outcomes. Your friends and family most likely have shared with you their experience with plastic surgery. You yourself may have had previous plastic surgery and you think all encounters will be like the one you had. NOT TRUE. Myths and misconceptions are rampant when it comes to plastic surgery. There are many plastic surgeons that practice with different styles and expect different outcomes. Don’t assume that you will have the same experience from my practice. Don’t judge. Keep an open mind. Let me tell you about my practice and my experiences. Let me make treatment suggestions based on your concern, your anatomy, and your personality.
- Tell me your concerns. Are you afraid of anesthesia? Do you have a limited recovery time? Don’t like the pictures of the scars on the website? Financial concerns? Do you want magical results without surgery? Are you afraid of the unknown? Are you afraid your results won’t meet your expectations or worse, leave you dissatisfied? It’s important for you to share with me what your concerns are. It’s critical that we develop a great doctor-patient relationship so that we are on the same page. I can’t appropriately help you if you keep secrets. I can’t read minds.
- Be prepared for me to ask you questions. This is the time that I am determining if plastic surgery is right for you and if I am the right doctor to take your case. I will ask questions that I believe will help me determine if you are a suitable candidate for plastic surgery, if you are doing it for reasons that are practical, and if you are healthy physically and emotionally. There is an immense mind-body connection when it comes to plastic surgery. I need to know (at least somewhat) the context of your life when it comes to plastic surgery.
- Make sure you have realistic expectations. Plastic surgery is not a remedy for all problems and it is not a perfect science. Having realistic expectations is an important component of successful plastic surgery outcomes. How do you think plastic surgery will affect your life? Do you have a realistic idea of how plastic surgery will change your appearance? How will you cope with your plastic surgery? How will others react to your plastic surgery? Basically, if you are not a happy person, don’t expect plastic surgery to make you happy. You must have realistic expectations and you must be psychologically stable to benefit from plastic surgery. During the time spent with you in consultation, I will be determining if I think your expectations are realistic. Open lines of honest communication will help me to help you.
- I don’t talk money or scheduling. I have outstanding staff members who manage my schedule and deal with all the financial affairs. I understand these two issues are important but I’m not the one to address these concerns.
- Embrace your consultation—get into it! The patients who get the most from their consultations are those who get involved with the process, go with the flow, and embrace the opportunity to be face-to-face with a noted authority on the subject or procedure that you are interested in. Don’t be intimidated by me — I am who I am but I like to believe that I’m as humble and normal as the day is long.
- Please keep your appointment. At the very least, tell me in advance if you can’t come to your scheduled appointment. This goes back to the issue of anxiety and fear. You may have had more “guts” when you made your appointment but on your consultation day you “chickened out.” That’s fine, I can understand. But to be courteous to a professional who set aside time for you and fully expected to offer you his best, I think it would be nice to share common courtesy and let me know you can’t make it so others who are waiting to be seen can be moved up.
- Visit with several doctors until you are sure. Remember, every patient who has plastic surgery thinks their doctor is the best (why else would they have chosen them?) Visiting with several doctors helps with the most important decision you will have to make when it comes to your plastic surgery: your surgeon. It can make or break you, so you need to choose wisely. After visiting with several surgeons, I think your decision will become more clear who you think is best for you.
- There is no pressure. I won’t force you to “decide now” or “buy” in my practice. We don’t sell and we don’t pressure. I simply educate and share with you my vast experience with cosmetic plastic surgery.
- Embrace the opportunity for change! I encourage patients to engage the process and look at it as an opportunity to change your life for the better. If you smoke, this is the time to quit. If you need to lose weight and get in shape, no better time than now. If you are looking to put some pizazz into your life, this is your opportunity to spice it up a bit. No matter what it is, this is a great opportunity for you to make a positive life change and set yourself on the path to a healthy lifestyle. I love the privilege of practicing my passion of surgery; to be a catalyst for those to change their lives in a positive and healthy manner is very uplifting.
— Robert Caridi, M.D.
Certified Plastic Surgeon
Founder of Westlake Plastic Surgery