You wait 40 minutes to see your child’s pediatrician, only to have a short 15 minutes with him. Your child is fidgety. You are so stressed out you’ve forgotten all of your questions. The appointment zips by and you’re left feeling frustrated.
Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to.
Preparing for an appointment
Any time Jamie Busman of Lindenhurst thinks of a question for her kids’ pediatrician, she writes it down. Being the mom of two kids keeps her busy and she has so many things to remember she knows she’d forget something by the time the doctor’s appointment comes around.
"I try to keep a list in a notebook in my purse," she says.
Pediatricians appreciate this kind of preparation for well checkups. After the age of 3, these checkups typically only take place once a year and parents may want to cover topics that aren’t on the pediatrician’s agenda.
It’s also important to prepare your kids before the appointment, especially if immunizations or tests are involved. Honesty is the best policy. If you lie to your kids about immunizations or tests, they may fear the pediatrician. If you don’t know what tests the pediatrician plans, ask ahead of time.
Read books to your kids about doctor visits. Dispelling some of the fear will help your child to love her pediatrician, an important sentiment that will carry into adulthood.
At the office, expect to wait. It’s rare to visit a doctor and be seen immediately. This can be of particular concern with pediatricians who are doing rounds at the hospital to visit newborns. Sick appointments are sometimes squeezed in between well checkups.
"I do understand that sometimes I have to wait," says Busman. "When it’s my turn, I want them to take time with me as well, so I keep that in mind."
Even if you aren’t preparing for an imminent appointment, parents should continue to educate themselves about their children’s developmental milestones and behavior.
"I love to see parents engaged in the health and well-being of their child," says Dr. Julie Herst Goynshor of Woodfield Pediatrics in Schaumburg, who is on staff at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. "Staying informed, whether through books or the Internet, is vital."
During the appointment
"During well checkups, pediatricians generally take the lead," says Dr. Anita Chandra of Northwestern Memorial Physician’s Group, who is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "We have a series of milestones to monitor. But I love it when parents bring lists with questions. It keeps the dialogue going."
Well checkups are the best time to discuss developmental milestones and behavior. Spend some time with your pediatrician discussing your concerns and bragging about your child’s accomplishments. Allowing your child to show off some of his skills also gives him a chance to relax and communicate with the doctor.
For sick appointments, parents should take the lead by providing the pediatrician with fever information, a list of symptoms and information on how long the illness has persisted.
"I can’t stress enough how important it is for parents to bring in the medications they have been giving their children," Chandra says. "Even if they are (over-the-counter) medications, it’s still best to bring them in case parents can’t remember the medication or dosage during the appointment."
During sick appointments, whoever brings the child to the doctor should know exactly what the child’s symptoms are. Even the best pediatricians can’t always diagnose without precise information on why the child is there.
Cultivating a positive rapport with your child’s pediatrician benefits everyone. Pediatricians can provide parents with literature on health care topics and parents should be willing to share articles or the titles of books with their pediatricians.
Goynshor recently had a patient’s parents provide her with a new book on autism. "I read the book and then called the parents back to discuss how to better help their son," she says. "We could all discuss current medical and alternative treatment options and therefore give him the best care possible."
After all, parents and pediatricians need each other.
"Parents are the expert on their child. Pediatricians are the experts on healthcare for children," Goynshor says. "Only by working together can parents and pediatricians give a child the best possible care."
But sometimes parents and pediatricians don’t see eye-to-eye.
If you are consistently uncomfortable or feel as if your pediatrician doesn’t address your child’s needs, ask your friends about their pediatricians and consider a switch.
That’s what Kristi Laney of Minooka did.
While the pediatrician practice had been great with her first two kids, her third child was sick a lot the first year. After multiple visits to a pediatrician who never remembered her or her son and refused to refer her to a specialist, Laney took matters into her own hands.
"I felt like she wasn’t taking the time to really look at him. She would just write another prescription and send us home," says Laney.
After the switch, the new doctor offered to do additional testing from the first appointment and didn’t promise a quick fix with more antibiotics. "I feel like he really cared," Laney says.
Michelle Sussman is a mom, wife and writer
in Bolingbrook, who loves her pediatric practice.
Visit her on the Web at www.michellesussman.com.