Your child’s doctor can be an incredible resource when you have questions and concerns about your child’s health, but finding time to fit in your child’s regular checkups and sick visits may be a stretch for your already jam-packed schedule.
While we pride ourselves on same day appointments, to be certain you can have your pick of time and doctor, it is always best to make routine appointments at least a week in advance.
The Doctor-Patient Relationship
In the past, parents may have known far less about their child’s health, growth, and development, but the health information that is readily available on the Internet, in bookstores, and from TV suggests that parents are more informed than ever. This is good news because parents who actively participate in their child’s health care help to ensure that their child receives the best care possible. In some cases, though, parents who do their own research may find incomplete or inaccurate medical and health information. A parent armed with stacks of printouts from disreputable Internet sources could find herself at odds with their doctor. For this reason, please use the links we have provided to ensure your child’s doctor has reviewed the information and you can rest assured it is reliable.
Another common problem that may hinder a good relationship with your child’s doctor is unrealistic expectations or an unwillingness to trust a doctor’s diagnosis or treatment of a minor illness. For example, many parents expect a drug or medicine for common colds, when a wait-and-see approach may be better. As a result, some doctors may feel pressured to give in to parental expectations for prescriptions or treatment even when it’s not necessary or in the best interest of the child’s health.
The increasing complexities of the health care system mean that parents have to take charge of their child’s care. One way to ensure good health care for your child is to work with medical professionals, such as your child’s doctor, to make sure your child receives adequate health screening and treatment.
Communicating With Your Child’s Doctor
The key to building a better relationship with your child’s doctor is open communication and reasonable expectations. What can you expect from your child’s doctor? He or she should:
* help you monitor your child’s health
* explain your child’s growth and development and what you can expect
* diagnose and treat your child’s minor or moderately serious illnesses
* provide referrals and work with specialists in case of serious illness
Your child’s pediatrician, family doctor, or nurse practitioner can also help you with other children’s health issues, including exercise, nutrition, and weight issues; behavioral and emotional issues; how to cope with family issues, such as death, separation, and divorce; and how to understand and seek treatment for learning disabilities.
Good communication is a two-way street. You can aid communication by letting the doctor know that you trust him or her to care for your child. It’s OK to ask your child’s doctor questions, but let your child’s doctor know that you want decisions, diagnoses, and prescriptions to be based on the best decision for the health of your child, not what’s easier for you or makes you feel better.
You should also be as prepared and detailed as possible during your child’s doctor visits. When your child’s doctor asks you how your child is doing, be prepared with any concerns or questions. It’s best to be specific – for example, telling your child’s doctor details about symptoms, such as that your child vomited three times last night, has had a temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius) for 4 hours, and is having diarrhea helps the doctor assess your child’s condition more readily than just saying, “She’s sick.”
You may want to jot down your questions and concerns before you enter the exam room so that you’re sure to remember to ask. And if you’re worried about symptoms your child is having, mention them to the doctor even if he or she doesn’t ask. The more information you provide about your child, the better the doctor will be able to assess your child’s health.
Tips for Building a Better Relationship
Make the most of your relationship with your child’s doctor (and the doctor’s office) by following these tips:
Be informed, but don’t overwhelm. The Internet is a tremendous tool that can help you learn more about your child’s health and development, but it’s unrealistic to expect your child’s doctor to evaluate every health resource or breakthrough you find on the Web or see on television. If you have a particular article that you’d like your child’s doctor to review or comment on, mail, email, fax, or drop off the article well in advance of the office visit, giving the doctor plenty of time to review and do any necessary research. Keep these requests to a minimum. If you’re looking for information on a particular child health topic, talk to the office staff or a nurse about whether they provide informational brochures. Ask the doctor to recommend some reliable resources and websites where you can get health information.
Be focused during the visit. Avoid distractions during the visit so you can focus your full attention on answering the doctor’s questions. Turn off your cellular phone and leave younger children with a spouse, babysitter, or relative. It’s also a good idea to stick to the reason for the visit – for example, don’t use a sick visit to discuss behavior problems that may require and in-depth evaluation. Instead, schedule a separate visit and let the office staff know the nature of your child’s problem so a longer appointment time can be allotted.
Follow the rules. Respect the doctor’s time by arriving for appointments on time or a few minutes early. If you’re unavoidably late, let the office know, and give at least 24 hours’ notice for a cancellation or rescheduling. Many office schedules are packed weeks in advance, so schedule well-child or non-sick visits early. You should also familiarize yourself with the office’s payment requirements and your insurance company’s co-pays and referral policy to make appointments go more smoothly.
Follow up. Before you leave the doctor’s office, make sure you understand what follow-up appointments or lab tests or blood work your child needs. Take notes about any instructions so you don’t forget them, and if you don’t understand how to administer a prescription, ask the nurse or doctor before leaving the office. Communicate with the office, too, if the medication prescribed isn’t working or your child develops worsening or additional symptoms.
Save time by making time. In most cases, it’s best if you or your partner attend your child’s doctors visits, especially for complicated issues like behavior problems. Relying on a substitute like a nanny or grandparent may mean that information or instructions may be misunderstood or miscommunicated by the time they get to your or that in-depth questions the doctor asks can’t be answered.
Use good judgment. Using the phone for questions about symptoms can save you and the doctor time and money, but don’t abuse the privilege. Save non-urgent questions about your child’s health and development for well-child visits. Many knowledgeable nurses or nurse practitioners answer phone questions for pediatric practices; use these medical professionals as a resource for non-urgent questions instead of demanding to speak with your child’s doctor each time you call.
The stress of having a sick or hurt child can strain communication between doctors and parents, and the many issues covered in well-child visits may leave little room for your questions. But don’t hesitate to ask your child’s doctor questions, no matter how insignificant you may think they are. Many times, simple problems with your child can be resolved easily with the help of the doctor.
And don’t be afraid to give your child’s doctor feedback about your office visit experience, such as whether you felt rushed during the appointment or needed more information about a prescription or procedure. A good doctor will want to work with you to provide the best care possible for your child.