Seeking a Family Doctor and Medical Help

Seeing a family doctor

Family doctors, also known as general practitioners or primary care physician help you look after your everyday health needs on a regular basis. They can help you with everything that is related to your health such as preventing and treating illness, mental health, and planning for various stages of your life such as immunizations, pregnancy, elder care and end of life.

A strong partnership between you and your doctor is key to getting great care.  A doctor who not only knows your medical history but understands what’s important to you may be the resource you need most when you face a major health care decision.

When choosing a doctor, you should consider if you can develop a good partnership with the doctor who will help you make the right medical decision best suited for you.  When you meet a potential family doctor, pay attention to how you feel during the visit. And ask yourself questions like:

  • Does the doctor listen well?
  • Does the doctor speak to you in terms you can understand?
  • Does the doctor spend enough time with you?

It is also important that the doctor is conveniently located so that you can easy go there when you are sick.

If you are looking for a family doctor, telephone HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 and one of their specially trained Health Service Navigators can assist you.  You may also contact your local Division of Family Practice at  – Richmond, Burnaby and Northshore divisions will help you find a family doctor.  You can also look for walk-in clinics with family doctors accepting new patients here

Non-emergency health concerns

If you have a health concern that is not an emergency you can call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 for health advice over the phone.

Call 8-1-1 toll-free in B.C. or for deaf and hearing-impaired, call 7-1-1.

You can speak with a health service navigator, who can also connect you with a:

  • registered nurse any time, every day of the year
  • registered dietitian from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday
  • qualified exercise professional from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday
  • pharmacist from 5pm to 9am every day of the year

Translation services are available in more than 130 languages including Japanese.

You can call 811 and say for example “ Nurse with Japanese translation please” and you will be able to have a three way conversation with a nurse and a translator.  The nurse can offer medical advice and help you decide if you need to go to the emergency.

You can also go to a walk-in clinics that provide non-emergency health care services on a drop-in basis.  You can use  website to find a walk-in clinic near you.


If it is an emergency call 9-1-1 or go immediately to your NEAREST hospital emergency department.  Examples of emergency are if you have been in a major accident or are experiencing:

  • Trouble breathing, or catching your breath
  • Severe head, abdominal or chest pain/pressure
  • Weakness or tingling on one side of your body
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Suicidal

When calling 911, first state your name, where you are and what is the emergency.  The dispatcher will ask you to describe the emergency.  Stay calm and answer any questions they have.  Be assured that the dispatcher is actively working to send help to you.  The questions are meant to get you the help you need as quickly as possible. They have usually already dispatched help, and need to ask more questions to provide updates to first-responders.  You may need to provide information like:

  • Your address or other details about your location
  • Your phone number
  • A description of what happened
  • Clarification about who needs help (you or someone you are with)
  • Details of the problem

You should always stay on the line until the dispatcher tells you it’s ok to hang up.  There is translational service available in over 170 languages.

If you are well enough to go to the Emergency department yourself, you can choose which emergency to go to by thinking about factors such as familiarity with the hospital, recent previous surgeries or admission to a given hospital, and closeness to your family should you need to be admitted.  You can find out the wait times of various hospital emergency at  It is updated every 5 minutes.

When seeing a doctor in the emergency department or walk-in clinic, bring all your medicines including  prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies and vitamins.  And also take a list of your past medical illness including surgeries and your latest medical tests if available.

Resources: HealthLink BC, Vancouver Coastal Health

Written by Dr. Asae Tanaka | Japanese translation by Toshiko Oshima

This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of the Bulletin.

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