Your child's doctor can be an incredible resource when you have questions and concerns about your child's health, but finding time for regular checkups and sick visits may be a stretch for your already jam-packed schedule. The doctor may be overbooked and overscheduled, too, so making the most of your time together is important.
What are the best ways to communicate your concerns and questions? And how can you strengthen your relationship with the doctor who plays such an important role in your child's health?
Today, doctors are pressured to see more patients in less time and to spend less time with each patient. Insurance issues, such as the need for referrals, complicate patient care for parents as well as doctors and their offices.
The increasing complexities of the health care system mean that parents have to take charge of their kids' care. In the past, parents may have known far less about their kids' health, growth, and development. In today's world, the health information that's readily available on the Internet, in bookstores, and on TV suggests that parents have the ability to be more informed than ever before. This is good news, because parents who actively participate in their kids' health care help to ensure the best care possible.
In some cases, though, parents who do their own research may find incomplete or inaccurate medical and health information. Parents armed with stacks of printouts from unreliable Internet sources could find themselves at odds with a tense and frustrated doctor who doesn't have time to agree or disagree with each piece of information.
Another common problem that may hinder a good relationship with your 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 key to building a better relationship with your child's doctor is open communication and reasonable expectations.
What can you expect from your doctor? He or she should:
Your 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 good to ask questions, but let the 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 as possible with details during your doctor visits. When asked how your child is doing, be ready to share any concerns or ask any questions. It's best to be specific. Be sure to tell the doctor details about symptoms — for instance, if your child vomited three times last night, had a temperature of 102ºF (39ºC), or is having diarrhea. This helps the doctor assess your child's condition more readily and accurately than if you just say that "my child is sick."
Consider jotting down your questions and concerns before the appointment so that you'll remember everything you want to bring up. And if you're worried about symptoms your child is having, mention them to the doctor even if he or she doesn't ask. Tell the doctor what you've tried to make the symptoms better and what worked and what didn't. The more information you provide, the better the doctor will be able to assess your child's health.
Make the most of your relationship with the doctor (and the doctor's office) by following these tips:
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 doctor questions, no matter how insignificant you may think they are. Many times, problems with your child can be resolved easily with the help of the doctor.
And don't be afraid to give the 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.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: January 2013
|American Academy of Nurse Practitioners The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners promotes the high standards of health care delivered by nurse practitioners.|
|American College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) Founded in 1993, the ACNP is a national nonprofit membership organization headquartered in Washington, DC. The ACNP is focused on advocacy and keeping NPs current on legislative, regulatory, and clinical practice issues that affect NPs.|
|American Medical Association (AMA) The AMA has made a commitment to medicine by making doctors more accessible to their patients. Contact the AMA at: American Medical Association|
515 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60610
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|AAP Pediatric Referral Department Use this website to find a pediatrician in your area or to find general health information for parents from birth through age 21.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|Adolescent Medicine Specialists Adolescent medicine doctors are specialists who have extra training in the medical and emotional issues that many teens face.|
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|Choosing Your Own Doctor We all deserve a doc who helps us feel comfortable and understood – and who can guide our medical care in a way we need. Get tips on finding the best doctor for you.|
|Going to the Doctor When you go to the doctor for a checkup, it's because your parents and your doctor want to see that you're growing just the way you should. Read all about what happens at the doctor's office.|
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|Finding Your Way in the Health Care System It can be stressful when your child needs medical attention, and more so when you're worried about where to get that care and how much it will cost. Here are some basics on managing the health care system.|
|Your Child's Checkups These age-specific guides can help you be prepared for and keep track of your well-child visits.|
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|Who's Who in the Hospital Parents are likely to be stressed when a child is hospitalized, and questions about the people providing medical care and what roles they play can add to the confusion. Our guide can help.|
|Preparing Your Child for Visits to the Doctor When kids know they're "going to the doctor," many become worried about the visit. Here's how to help them.|
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