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Talking to Your Boss About Doctor Appointments

By Matt Cavallo

When you have MS, some of your doctor appointments or scheduled tests can take a long time. The problem with most appointments or tests is that they take place during business hours. This means that you’ll have to eventually tell your boss that you are taking time off for these appointments.

Most people do not like discussing their MS with their boss. Many people keep their MS from their employer for fear that they may be viewed differently at work. Just know that under the American’s with Disabilities Act, they can’t discriminate against you for having MS and are required to provide accommodations if needed. 

That being said, I know it is a tricky subject. Most people who get diagnosed with MS receive the diagnosis in their 20s and 30s when they are just starting to climb the corporate ladder. A diagnosis such as that may change the way people ahead of you in the organization view your growth potential. 

My initial onset of symptoms happened on the clock. My coworkers could see that I could no longer walk on my own and that something was seriously wrong with me. After my diagnosis, I went from a young real estate developer who was out in the field everyday working on projects to the person who was left behind at the office doing data entry because my boss was concerned about me overexerting myself. 

Even though my employer at the time had the best of intentions, it was obvious that my diagnosis affected my growth potential. This is called unconscious bias, which is a social stereotype that happens outside of a person’s awareness. It is the reason I have withheld my diagnosis from employers even though they can look up my MS writing on the internet. I want people to focus on the abilities I have and not their unconscious bias toward my chronic illness that they may not understand.

Tips for talking to your boss about doctor appointments

Keep explanations short. Your boss is a busy person and they don’t need to know the why behind the appointment. Just let them know you have a scheduled doctor appointment and you will be out of the office for an hour. They do not need to know what kind of doctor or why you are seeing them. If they ask why, just say that it is a routine exam that you had scheduled for some time. Anything you volunteer beyond that is more information than your employer needs to know.

Take PTO for exams lasting four hours or longer. Some examinations can last a long time. Use your paid time off for these exams. If you take PTO for medical exams, you do not have to explain why you need the time.

Avoid specialist terms such as neurologist. Your boss doesn’t need to know what kind of doctor’s appointment you are going to. Saying that it is a neurology appointment rather than just a doctor’s appointment will instantly raise questions with your boss as to why you are seeing a specialist.

Avoid talking about the results of your doctor’s visit at work. Whether you receive good or bad news from the doctor, the workplace is not the place to talk about it. Sharing these results at work will get others talking about your health condition. Some coworkers may even view you as getting special privileges because of your condition. Keep this talk out of the office.

Take health-related calls outside of the office. If your doctor calls while you are at work, step outside of the office and take the call where people cannot eavesdrop. Remember your health is not their business.

Keep your health information private and protected. The office does not need to know what you are going through and telling them can change how they view you.