The reality of having a child with chronic health care needs is that clinic appointments are a frequent event. One year I counted them all and from January to July we had 60 appointments alone.
I had to figure out how to make the best out of our appointment time.
For example, to get us in the right mindset, my son and I have a fun routine on the way to the clinic of listening to a tune by Elmo that goes “You have to be patient to be a patient.” This helps us both, but there are some other things that we could do as well.
So I’ve compiled a short list of tips that have helped me, and will hopefully help you get the most out of your next clinic visit with your child.
These ideas come from a lot of personal experience doing things the wrong way, leaving me frustrated, wondering what the doctor said, trying to recall when I am suppose to come back for a follow-up, and remembering that good question I wanted to ask heading home well after my visit, etc … you get the idea.
- Why are you there? This is important because it may determine how much time you have with the doctor. If it is a physical or well child check up you have about 15 minutes. If a sick child visit probably less time.
- How do we use this short amount of time wisely? Bring a list of questions and the first one should be the most pressing issue you have. This I learned after having a terrible time getting out the door, running late stuck in traffic, can’t find parking, or need a quick diaper change in the back seat, and then completely forgetting every question I had when the doctor arrives.
- Take notes if possible or ask the doctor to write things down, draw pictures, or what ever you prefer. Same list of troubles as #2 above happen when leaving and inevitably you cannot remember anything you talked about. You can also ask them to mail you a copy of the office visit notes. If you learn better visually tell the clinician that. If you don’t, save them the trouble of having to be a brilliant physician and an artist.
- Don’t forget prescriptions. If you need refills this is done more easily in person then tracking them down over the phone.
- Bring help. If you are able, have someone with you to care for your child while you are talking with the doctor. This can be very helpful.
- Get to know how the clinic operates. Surprises are not fun during after-hour emergencies. Educate yourself on what the after-hours procedures are, and what happens if your child ends up hospitalized or in the emergency department, or if your primary doctor is on vacation? I have learned that “call us if you need anything” is not as easy as it sounds.
As I also have said before, having your own personal health record is a great way to keep everything organized. I prefer an online version with the Children’s Medical Organizer, that I can then print out if needed.
Please add to this list. What tips have you learned coming to clinic appointments?
|Melissa Winger is a Children’s of Minnesota employee and long-time member (and former chair) of Children’s Family Advisory Council. Read more about Melissa in her first post to the Kids’ Health blog.|