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5 tips for most effectively communicating with your child’s doctor

Considering the time off work, travel and other factors, getting a sick or injured child to a doctor’s appointment can be stressful. So, once you’re at the appointment, we know you want to make the most of your time with the physician.

After treating pediatric patients for more than 40 years, Dr. Mary Zupanc, co-medical director of the CHOC Children’s Neuroscience Institute, understands this desire among parents and caregivers.

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Dr. Mary Zupanc, co-medical director of the CHOC Children’s Neuroscience Institute

To help, she offers these five tips for most effectively communicating with your child’s doctor of any specialty:

  1. Develop your child’s personal story beforehand.

Finding a clinician who will take the time to hear your child’s personal story is critical. Have your story ready before your appointment, and include these elements:

  • A written timeline of signs and symptoms
  • A note of when you or someone else first noticed that something was different or unusual
  • A note about what specifically concerned you
  • Any relevant photographs or videos

2. Practice two-way communication.

Not only should a clinician want to hear your story, but they should also draw out more details through conversation and asking questions. Here’s what you should expect and how you can do your part:

  • A good clinician will take the time to listen to the story you have to tell.
  • They will ask questions but avoid interrupting you.
  • They will ask you to clarify parts of your story, such as the timeline or details about symptoms.
  • They should ask you about your questions. Write these down in advance and don’t be timid about asking.

 3. Remember that doctors and nurses are scientists who like facts.

Clinicians are like detectives who search for clues. You can help them by providing key factual details. Before your appointment, take some time to draw up some key facts:

  • Information about other previous diagnostic tests and their results
  • Information about previous medication trials
  • A detailed medical history, which includes a mother’s pregnancy, labor and delivery history; other illnesses; current and past medications; and recollection of similar symptoms in other family members.

4. Visual communication is also key for providers.

In addition to hearing from you, the clinician will want to observe the child to see for themselves what’s happening.

  • A physical examination, as well as a neurological examination, can provide important clues to the diagnosis.
  • A good clinician will provide initial impressions and ask for your input.

5. Strategies are available to help make communication even better.

A good physician will work diligently to effectively and sensitively communicate with their patients and families. But here are other ways to further enhance communication:

  • Bring along another family member or advocate.
  • Prepare a list of questions ahead of time with specific requests about further diagnostic studies.
  • Bring your own research to the clinic visit about diagnosis and management strategies.

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