11 Mistakes Doctors Wish You’d Stop Making Already

Updated: Mar. 30, 2021

These slipups could seriously compromise your health care, according to the medical professionals we interviewed.

What not to do

Doctors, nurses, and paramedics see so many health mistakes on a regular basis. Here are the ones you definitely need to avoid—and what to do instead, according to health care professionals.

hands on cellphone

Avoid calling 911 from a cell phone

“If you have the option, calling from a landline can save your life because we can pinpoint your location instantly. If you call from a cell phone, we waste a lot of time asking where you are or searching for you.” Arthur Hsieh, paramedic

emergency room sign

Don’t drive yourself to the hospital

“It’s incredible how many people having a heart attack drive themselves to the emergency room instead of calling 911.”—Arthur Hsieh. It’s best to call 911 for help or ask a neighbor or friend for help. If your heart stops while driving, you limit the chance for survival or successful recovery.

doctor and patient consulting
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Don’t research doctors the wrong way

“Patients rely on media, which is the opposite of what you want to rely on.” Ben Talei, MD, board-certified facial cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon in Beverly Hills, California. Do your research on potential doctors before assuming they are a good fit.

doctor consulting with senior patient
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When you don’t understand me, speak up

“If you do not understand what the doctor is telling you, say so! I once heard a doctor telling his patient that the tumor was benign, and the patient thought that benign meant that he had cancer. That patient was my dad. It was one of the things that inspired me to become a nurse.”Theresa Tomeo, RN, a nurse at the Beth Abraham Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Queens, New York. (These are the medical tips doctors and nurses wish you knew.)

senior patient talking to health care worker
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If you’ve been to the ER, you’d better know what’s next

“If you don’t understand what you’re supposed to do when you leave the ER, ask—and ask again if necessary.”Linda Lawrence, MD, San Antonio, Texas

Smoking a Cigarette
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Stop smoking cigarettes. Really.

“If someone’s a smoker, they gotta stop. I feel sick when I talk to people who still smoke. It’s never too late to stop. Even quitting in your seventies improves survival. If patients want to do one thing for their health, it would be to stop smoking.”Stuart Connolly, MD, director, division of cardiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario

hand holding medicine and glass of water
Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock

Don’t stop a prescription medication when you start to feel better

“It’s crucial that if you have a prescription, you continue to take it as long as it is prescribed.”Darria Long Gillespie, MD, ER doctor at Erlanger Hospital Emergency Medicine, SVP clinical strategy at Sharecare, and a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at The University of Tennessee

doctor or nurse checking patient's blood pressure
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Don’t go to the wrong kind of provider

“A lot of my patients say, ‘Well, it’s a doctor, and doctors are all the same’..no no no! If you have a Chevrolet and you want to get it tuned up, you’re not going to take it to the bicycle mechanic. The best place to go is to that person who does nothing but service Chevrolets. It’s exactly the same thing for physicians. There are so many specialties nowadays, and that really makes it better for patients.”Dr. Darria Long Gillespie. (Need help? Check out our 10 tips on how to find a doctor you can trust.)

prescription medication bottles
David Smart/Shutterstock

Don’t overpay for your meds

“There’s an app called GoodRX, so when patients come and complain that their medication is expensive, I say, ‘Whoa, before you overpay for that medication, let’s sit together and maybe go on an app to see if we can find it cheaper.’ Sometimes you can find medications cheaper without insurance; don’t make the mistake of overpaying when there are cheaper alternatives or generic alternatives.”Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, board-certified urologic surgeon, co-director of PUR Clinic

Turmeric powder and turmeric on wooden spoon.
tarapong srichaiyos/Shutterstock

Too much of a good thing pre-surgery is not good

“Patients try to consume all the supplements they can have; they have turmeric and curcumin, and cayenne, and other kinds of spices because they think that they’re heart-healthy––and they are, but [patients] can have increased bleeding during or after surgery which is dangerous.”Dr. Ben Talei

hands using a laptop
Oleksii Didok/Shutterstock

Don’t consult Dr. Google

“I have had patients come to me thinking they have some crazy rare disease when it’s actually something very simple. In the end, they wind up stressing themselves out and causing something else.”Michelle Katz, LPN, MSN

Next up, check out other health myths that make doctors cringe.