What to Do When You Are Waiting to See The Doctor aka “My Waiting Bag”


My “Waiting Bag”- Since I unfortunately spend alot of time in doctors’ waiting rooms, I quickly learned to make the most of this seemingly wasted time.

I learned this skill from my over achiever mother, who used every moment as a chance to get something done. Since I became sick at a young age, she was the person who drove me to the doctor and had to wait with me, or for me, in the office waiting room. She would bring with her a book to read or school work to do, or sometimes magazines to enjoy or Christmas cards to write out. It became a routine for both of us to bring small jobs with us, to keep busy, feel productive and keep our minds off of the dreaded doctor’s visit. When I was younger- this was the time for my homework or studying. The time would quickly fly, and it did not feel wasted.

My mother always thought ahead and brought snacks, or fun stuff like little portable games when I was younger. Many times I remember children crying to their parents that they were hungry or bored, and watched as they stared with yearning for whatever treat my mother brought for me.
Now that I am older, I still have the same amount of doctor’s appointments, but I do not have the luxury of my mother coming with me. I find that I still use the productive skills she gave me. I started my own “waiting bag.” I have a tote bag that I leave by the door and fill with little tasks or activities that are not time sensitive, so they can wait for the moments when I am waiting. It started with a few things in the bag- and now it has grown to have things I need, or look forward to.

My Waiting Bag consists of a few essentials.
I no longer have homework for school that I need to do, but I find that there are always little things I want to read or work on. For example, occasionally I will cut out an article that looks interesting that I have been meaning to read, but did not have the time for at the moment. I also leave a book or magazine that I am reading in the bag.
I always mean to send thank you notes or even notes to keep in touch etc., so I added a small pack of pretty blank notes. I can use these blank notes for thank you’s, keeping in touch, get well soon, even
birthdays. I keep pens, my Palm Pilot (or your address book) and a few extra stamps in the bag.
Many times this has helped me catch up on notes or cards I have been meaning to send. The Palm Pilot has been great because it not only has the addresses of anyone I want to keep in touch with, but it also has a calendar to remind me of dates that are coming up to be celebrated. With all of our email communication, I still find that people love to receive a card or note in the mail- I know I do.
I also carry with me a little notepad. Not only is this good to carry into the actual doctor’s visit to write down important information, but I find that whenever an idea floats into my head- it is good to write it down right away. Sometimes when you are in a waiting room in silence, you think about the oddest things. I have remembered people to call, dinners to make, or even ideas for my personal writing.
I always keep a few things in my waiting bag to help keep me more comfortable and happy. I bring a small bottle of water, a snack like a granola bar or nuts, a small size lotion, chapstick and mints or candy. These are the things that I have found make me happy, I am sure you will find your own. And don’t forget to replenish them as you use them.
As I am reading the newspaper or listening to the news, I have had questions I want to ask my doctor about. I used to forget the exact details or forget to ask the doctor the question at all. Now I remember to cut out the article or write down the question and bring it with me. I also have found that many times as I drive away from the doctor, I think to myself “oh, I wish I had asked the doctor that”. Now I quickly write it down, and leave it in my bag for next time if it is not urgent.

In addition, I bring with me my medication bottles, or a list of anything I take (including over the counter drugs, vitamins etc.) so when I am asked, I can refer to the list and not have to struggle to remember.

The items listed above are what are in my “waiting bag”, but you might find that you will add your own special items. I know a woman that brings her crocheting along with her, or mothers who clip grocery store coupons. I recently purchased a few of the travel size tissues and antibacterial lotions, and have added them to my bag. Just add whatever will make you happy, or whatever will keep you busy.

I think my waiting bag is a good idea for anyone who finds themselves in similar situations, waiting in doctors’ offices. But I have heard from friends that they have started their own “waiting bags”, for times when they are waiting at the DMV, on errands, waiting for their kids, or even at their children’s athletic games.
Many people wonder how I keep up with everything on a “limited supply of spoons”, but I have found that it is just that I have learned to spend my spoons wisely!

Written by Christine Miserandino

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  • I always seem to have at least my iPhone with games and a good book in my bag but these are some other really great suggestions, thanks!

  • These are all great suggestions! I am a travel nurse, so I am always on the go… I understand what its like to have to wait around sometimes and why not make the extra time useful? Thanks!

  • John Egan

    What an absolutely brilliant idea! They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, So I will be sincerely flattering you when I take my new “anti boredom bag” to my next appointment. Thanks for the idea, and keep smiling

  • Diane

    I take my Kindle as well. That way I can read, listen to a book or music or play a game. I typed up a list of meds and vitamins, test results and questions and loaded them in the Kindle. It’s got a pretty skin and cover so everyone wants a look at it.

  • Melody Ream

    I too have my waiting bag with similar items (counted cross-stitch is my favorite, though many days I’m unable). I feel like a bag lady though. I carry my purse along with me as well as my oxygen bag. So I try to combine my waiting bag and purse on some visits that the wait is usually short. It’s still a pain but that’s what lupus is all about. Thanks for sharing, I always enjoy your writing.

  • inca

    My bag stems more from public transportation (something else where waiting is not uncommon) and does always include book, mp3, water, quick energy, and usually layers to deal with cold and rain. I really like the cards though… at the moment i forget them too often. So will add those too!

  • Stephanie Schiffman Marushia

    The Kindle is a must have for Spoonies! Lightweight so you can read forever one handed and without hand, back, or neck pain! It’s also nice being able to carry a whole library with me and you can email your meds list to your Kindle so it’s always on hand.

    My smartphone (Android) also has a Kindle app and also has Angry Birds for long waits! Other than that it’s a giant cup of hot coffee, extra drinks (I’m always dehydrated due to meds), sugar free lemon candies, snacks, and sudoku.

    And this time of year I always have a blanket in the car and a lap blanket if I’m in the wheelchair to protect myself from the extreme temp changes. Hand warmers are nice too.

  • mer

    I have a notebook, but it’s not for fun. I use my iphone while i wait
    but i bring a list of ALL of my current DRs and meds. bc i can NOT rememeber that studff

  • Tiffany

    My “bag” used to contain my best friend, but she quit a couple of weeks ago, said she didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better and why the doctors and the pills were not making me better. So because I wouldn’t take her and Suzanne Summer’s advice and quit taking all of my Lupus and Fibro medicines she said, she could no longer accompany me. Seeing as I am still alive and functioning even though rather limited, I am still alive! I say the doctors are doing a fine job. Now, inside my “bag” is my Kindle, I LOVE my kindle, I bet Kindle won’t quit on me!

  • I love this idea!

    I have advanced M.S. so I’m always in a doctor’s office, a hospital or on the para transit bus.

    Thank you for the article and thanks to the rest of you for sharing your variations =)

  • Elizabeth

    Christine/Janet – you both sound like my mom and I!! She is responsible for taking me to all my doctor appts these days (and my dad too). Which means ALOT of times waiting in offices or hospitals. She always has her bag with crocheting, a book, crosswords, a few snacks, and whatever else she might need for a particular trip.
    As I have become sicker, I have started packing my own bag as well, since I never now what symptoms may pop out and make me more miserable…. So I always have extra of my many PRN anti-nausea meds. Then my pain meds and and extra dose of my regular meds ( never know when a regular visit turns into a hospital stay! Plus my Ipod, a book, fingerless gloves, sunglasses, pretzels, water….
    I also try to remember my calender that I use to keep track of my symptoms and meds – it really helps at Doctor appts, to explain when I was flaring, etc.
    My purse fits in the bag too, that way I can just grab it if we are going some where else after my appts.

  • Charlayne Elizabeth Denney

    I guess I should build a bag. I ALWAYS take my book and my medical notebook, along with my hand purse but I’ve needed water at times or a snack. I am a historian and many of my books are really heavy, a Kindle would be great (asking for one from the kids for my birthday!). I’m also beginning to write fiction again so a notebook would be good until I could get home to my computer.

    I have a few good bags I could use, one has my quilting material in it and could be used for this (and whatever project I am working on at the time.

  • Madelyn

    I use an app on my Android phone that enables me to download several public-domain books– stories I’d been wanting to read for years but never got around to, likely there’s one for other smartphones. I also downloaded a couple of easy-on-the-eyes games (I have chronic migraines & a constant headache among other stuff). My medical info and Qs for doctors are in a few Word docs that I sync with my Palm Pilot so I can update on-the-go and have everything at my fingertips. Being an artist, I always carry a small sketchpad in my purse so I can jot down or sketch ideas. So merely by taking my purse I have seemingly endless hours of entertainment. The only extra things I add to my handbag that don’t stay there ordinarily are a single-serving carton of soymilk, a small water bottle, and a small baggie of nuts & dried fruit. Just in case, ya know. 😉

  • Jan Cantle

    When I was a child my Dad was in the army and we travelled all over the world. My Mum always made special journey bags which had similar contents, suited to age.

    I carried that on when I started going to places where I would be hanging around for a long time and my bag now has puzzle book, sketch pad and pencils, camera, reading book and glasses, drink, chocolate ( for diabetic emergencies -ha ha!),tissues, wet wipes and often an article or something I am reviewing for work. I always put in a spare prescription request list and a list of my other doctors and ailments.there is also often a spare pair of panties in case of accidents. I sometimes even remember my mobile phone!

    If I am expecting to meet my grandkids I add some paper and pencils or a small present for them.

  • Tina

    I bring my mp3 player when I am do to get back shots, or for sental appts. Things that stress me out.
    The music helps.
    for long dr appt waiting rooms, I bring paper…writing out a to do list, or a letter.
    also readers digest is small magazine.
    water too…..

  • I always take a wait bag with me. Usually have coupons to sort, or grocery list, thank you notes etc. magazine or book I am reading. phone calls to make or return. With fatigue hitting me hard this time of year, I have to make the most of every awake moment. Thank you for your testimony, for sharing with all of us. For being willing…. May God bless you always. Sending soft hugs.

  • Darlene

    Christine, I used to get LAUGHED at when I walked in with my tote. It has my crochet projects that are tote-able, gum, mints, water or gatorade, sometimes a book. I always make sure my meds list is current for them (and in alpha order) and have started carrying cards that are specific (get well, b’day, thinking of you) so I can jot a quick letter out. Like you, I love getting mail that doesn’t say “due by”…hahaha!

    And Mrs. Janet? Not an overachieving mom. My mom was the same way and while reading this, I could see her in my mind’s eye sitting in my hospital room crocheting away while sucking on one of her mints! She used to carry granola bars for quick snacks.

  • Gail Ruff

    All good advice and I read them all. FYI, if you’re fortunate enough to own an IPhone, the Kindle App from Amazon is FREE. (It may be on other cell phones, too). My novel in a pocket for those pesty doctors’ appts. and infusions. Now the nurses at hospital, who give me my infusions, and I have a regular book club going. I’m always picking up good ideas for the next read.

    I especially like the suggestions of snacks with you, as I’m sure many of us have “raw” stomaches from meds and/or need to take pills while we’re out and about and must have something on our stomaches to obsorb them. Fun to try and loose weight with these extra issues, isn’t it?

    Yes, I try to avoid the magazines in the Dr.’s office but I will say that with RA’s soup’d up immune system I haven’t had a cold in ten years. The flu?, 30 years. I’ve been told by MD’s that RA’s also a pretty good protection from cancer. Hope so.

  • Carl

    I miss the days when you actually needed something to do in the waiting room because you’ve read all the magazines (or don’t want to touch them because of the germs). Now you just get bombarded by the TV. I can’t even use the time for study because some voice in the background is booming about the latest on Will and Kate or Jerry Springer fight.

  • Tammie

    this is a great idea if I can ever get it together enough to out one together…

  • heather morgan

    My husband bought me an MP3 player when I got acutely ill in August of 2009, and it was such a godsend! It is very relaxing to have your favorite songs at the touch of a button and very comforting too when you are having outpatient procedures done!

    As a public library patron, I cannot say enough about being able to download books onto my MP3 player so that I can listen to them while I am waiting. I am very foturnate in the state of Florida, we have a great resource. One of our libraries makes electronic book access available to everybody in the state, if you live in Florida, here is the link:


    Click on downloadable media at the top left, and you are on your way!

    If you do not live in FL, there is a site, Questia.com, that has books online in the public domain. You cannot download, but you can read for free. And if you check out your public library, I bet you can find something similar in your state! Also, I check out CDs, rip and convert to MP3s. Just be sure to delete afterwards, you don’t want to mess with copyrights!!

    Love your website and columns as always!!

  • EJP

    I am a newly diagnosed Lupus patient….I guess I have been suffering for years but the symptoms nor the bloods ever came together till last sept. when I visited my gastro doc and he took blood and called me at work to come asap for the results…only one of the bloods made a correlation of SLE Lupus and he told me to go to a Rheumatologist…I guess all us Lupus see more than one Dr. cause the first highly recommended quack took the Lupus profile bloods himself and when he got back the results he gave me a copy and said “well you have antiphosphilipid and your taking aspirin and I dont think your gonna get lupus you need a psychitrist because you had a rough 2 years….when he was really saying “I cant be bothered with a new patient” the 2nd one you waited hours for and when you finally got her she said YES you have Lupus your bloods and DNA test are off the roof here take Plaquenil and see me in 12 weeks ……………….. well I had to see her sooner cause my ankel blew up like a balloon and she kept me waiting and standing room only for 3 hrs and said oh thats bad…methyltrexate and Mobic see me in 8 weeks…my pharmacist said he would not fill due to the contradictions to my heat meds so I called and left 3 messages she has yet to return my call….because I found a REAL Dr. I read about in a mag. A rheum/researcher on the cutting edge and her partner and she is on my plan…she immediately sched an appt she is in north shore/LIJ in the feinstein institute and YES I have Lupus and she drew bloods and I also have the anti phosphilipid and the Lupus renal and skin disorders she put me on short term prednisone to act cause the disease is so active I cant function and will wean me off as the other med works and I started Cellcept I know my kidney may need a biopsy but she didn’t say when I guess to check how much damage I just hope it isn’t that bad
    SORRY I wrote so much I haven’t told my children yet(they are adults) and my job doesn’t know only a few ppl I’m afraid but I have to tell them she has me out of work for a week and my boss is anxious….your website and your story inspires me
    I didnt give my full name yet but I will along with an explanation
    thank you

  • K-squared

    I bring my Zune, so I can listen to music, watch a movie or play a game. I also bring my list of questions, book, Nintendo DS & a pack of crackers. The trick is to make sure everything charged before I leave to go. 🙂

  • rhonda

    I sleep. Seriously. If there are no good magazines or the daily news, I sleep.

  • Stephanie

    I also have a waiting bag, or a hospital bag. I seem to be spending a lot of time there. I love your tote. I am going to order one as soon as I get paid! I keep a paperback book, a puzzle book, chapstick is a must. I also try to keep a few dollars in there. You never know when you are going to need to use the vending machine etc. I love your site btw!

  • Knitting. I always have a pair of socks on the needles; they’re small, portable, easy to remember. And they often break the ice for me. I’m very shy, but if someone asks me about what I’m knitting, I’m able to chat more easily. Socks also make nice gifts for people who have been kind.

  • I also bring my Kindle with me to any MD appts. There is nothing worse than being at the end of a book and needing to cart 2 books around in case you finish one! Now that I have the Kindle, I have them all right there!

  • Carol

    My mp3 player and now the Kindle.

    Due to a bad outbreak of flu, unbelievable amount of people have died over here from it, there are no magazines in the waiting room to help spread germs so my Kindle does come in handy.

  • nancyj

    Loved your list and like Sam I Am, my Kindle accompanies me everywhere-much less weight than my usual book. Was with me when I saw five different docs this week and will be there for the last two next week. I also add a list of my many surgeries especially when I see a new doc.

  • If I am between knitting projects though (which is rare) or it is too bulky/complicated to take out sith me I will throw in my Sony Pocket eBook reader. I also always have my iPhone with me for reading in the kindle or other reader apps and for web / Ravelry surfing if there is cell phone coverage.

  • Knitting. I always throw a small knitting project into my handbag or tote (along with iced water in a steel double-walled camelbak and making sure I have spare knickers and snacks). Things like socks or a hat I can knit in the car when I am being driven, on the bus, in a waitingroom – anywhere really. I have often found that getting my kntting out of my bag because I am getting bored of waiting means that three knitted stitches later and the doctor will come out and call my name! ;-p

  • I try to do my question list at home and bring it in my wait bag. Christine has reminded me to bring a book or my ebook reader as I am a frequent enough visitor to the doctor that I’ve read all the magazines.

  • Christine Lee

    I do the same thing, is that the same type A personality that got us in this mess to begin with?

  • Cyndy Shubert

    I used to carry a book or three, an MP3, a small crochet/knitting project, some sugarless candies, and a writing journal. As the arthritis became more progressive in my hands, I switched to an E-reader (nook) and a smaller more easily carried bag. I don’t need to carry the MP3 because my nook has a music/headphone feature. (It also has a chess game on it) I do carry my questions, meds info and so on, but now I keep them in a word doc journal that I can print out to take with me. I miss taking the crocheting, but once I have my thumb joint replaced this spring, I’m hoping to get back to that one!

  • Janet Miserandino

    I am not an over achiever mother:)

  • Bren

    instead of paperbacks I rip the comics and Ann Landers out of the newspapers that I don’t have time to read and keep them in my waiting bag. When you are done you can throw them away or leave them for someone else to read. They never grow old. I do also take a pair of gloves because of the newspaper ink.

    I also have a craft organizer in my bag – in it has mints, nuts, scissors, aspirin, tissues, notebook, pen … just keeps everything in the bag neat.

    Lastly, I bought myself a really nice bag – totes on sale. I figure I send a lot of time using it, I deserve it!

  • Kim

    I always have water, a book or magazine, and, since I knit, a portable knitting project.

  • This is actually why I bought a Kindle. Best purchase ever! I got tired of recycling light weight paper backs in my purse because I didn’t want to carry something heavy.

    Like you, I also try to type out a list of questions/concerns before the appointment, and review them while I’m waiting. The only problem is that sometimes the brainfog is so bad I forget I’ve written the list at all, and then it doesn’t do me much good.

  • Yes! I have all these things in my bag too! I also carry reading material for my mother, who accompanies me often! 😀

  • What a great list of ideas! I take many of those items with me as well! I’m also not the type to sit there waiting, bored.

  • Joan

    Hello Christine I have visited your site before I read a Devotional you wrote for Chronic pain Devotionals @Rest Ministries.org. It was about sharing with a friend your Spoons Method. I enjoyed it so much I came to visit your site. Where I found the complete story about Spoons Method. I love it anad saved the article in my folders. I have since shared with many friends my leevel of Spoons I have today and why I may not be able to spend time or go to lunch with them today. They seem to understand so much more how a day for me maybe.
    I have recently joined restministries Sunroom and saw a blog about But You Don’t Look Sick. I am once again having a look around and just finished reading Waiting Room Bag what an awesome idea as usually I get things ready I want to take with me and than I end up leaving them at home. So this is such a super idea. I am going to start making my witing Room Bag today. Place it in my Scooter I use to get around and make an extra one for my new walker so that I will always be prepared. Thanks so much for sharing all your helpful hints and infromation on chronic illness.
    The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit
    GBU Joan

  • LA Gozzard-ghdcanada

    IPODS or other MP3s are great for those of us with vision problems, brain fog, limited muscle control etc, you don’t have to carry around a big book, so it is lighter. A lot of libraries carry books on CD you can download/upload onto your IPOD or similiar device and always have it with you.
    If you are afraid you won’t hear your name called, you can always only wear it in one ear!