Take it from me; tips to improve your child’s next appointment

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Don’t forget prescriptions. If you need refills this is done more easily in person then tracking them down over the phone.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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