After having my first child, I sorted through baby-care literature as I waited to be discharged from the hospital.
Circumcision care, proper car seats, immunizations. How would I keep all this straight?
The doctor arrived and told me to bring my infant son to his office in one week for a weigh-in. Not something more to do! The doctor assured me that the know-how would come and that babies thrive on love. His compassion freed me to voice my worries.
Medical researchers say a long-term relationship with a doctor you can trust and talk to easily makes for the best healthcare. So I asked medical professionals for tips on building this relationship.
Prepare for office visits. Doctors usually provide hand-outs on typical age-related concerns during routine checkups. But physician Ed Read suggests obtaining and reading them before your scheduled visit. That way you can get questions answered when you bring your child in.
Family physician Michael Flanagan recommends writing your questions down prior to the visit. Preparation is especially beneficial if you visit the doctor with other children in tow. A list will help you remember what you wanted to ask in spite of distractions.
Eliminate confusion. A Mayo Clinic study demonstrated that patients often forget a doctor's instructions?especially when he uses unfamiliar terms or issues a number of directives at once. To avoid confusion, ask for written instructions.
Be specific. Take your baby's temperature before calling in about an illness. A doctor must base medical decisions on specific information, not a vague "he feels hot," says Dr. Flanagan. Other useful information includes whether your baby is urinating normally or suffering from diarrhea, whether other family members have similar symptoms, and any changes in eating or drinking.
If the doctor doesn't have your child's chart in front of her, mention past medical concerns such as recurring ear infections and the names of medicines your child is taking.
Keep a "pain diary." Medical receptionist Kathy Adams suggests keeping track of specific symptoms. Write down the day and time the pain started, how frequently it occurs and when it seems to subside. Also, be prepared to describe how you know your baby is in pain. Is he crying or pulling at his ear? Does the intensity of the pain seem to vary?
Express your worries. When your child is ill, Dr. Read says, "share your worries." Often a doctor can't make an immediate diagnosis, but he can rule things out. So if your baby hasn't gained weight and you're worried she might have a chronic, disabling condition, ask about it. Often the doctor can set your mind at rest.
Consider doctors' tight schedules. Avoid making an appointment for one child and then extending the time to talk about a second child's health. Also, says Kathy Adams, "It's helpful to tell the receptionist what you plan to address up front so she can schedule adequate time."
?Faith Tibbetts McDonald
Educator, writer and mother
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