It takes an average of 21 days to get a doctor’s appointment. So how can you get one sooner? Here’s advice from doctors themselves:

Dr. Leana Wen is an emergency room physician and she says doctors always keep a few emergency slots open daily. The trick is getting the receptionist to slide you into one of them. So Dr. Wen suggests making a written list of your symptoms before you call – and then reading that list verbatim to the receptionist – so you don’t forget anything when you’re on the spot. And get specific.  Instead of saying “My head hurts and I have a fever.” Say, “My fever is 103 and my headache is so severe I’ve had to miss work.”

If you want to get in to see a doctor you’ve never seen before, it’s all about who you know. Just like with a job opening, it’s better if you have a friend already working at the company – with doctors, it’s better if you already have a friend who’s their patient. That’s according to patient advocate Trisha Torrey, who wrote the book “The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes.” So instead of saying, “I’m a new patient looking to book an appointment” say, “My friend Sarah Jones has been seeing Dr. Fisher for years and recommends her highly.”

Finally, to book a doctor’s appointment sooner rather than later, don’t ask to see the doctor. Patient advocate Torrey says if your regular doctor is booked solid, request an appointment with a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant. They’ll be able to see you sooner – and if your problem is something that’s outside of their scope, they’ll call the doctor in to check you out on the spot.