Specialty pediatric clinic visits can be tough.
They’re often a long way from home, in an unfamiliar environment, and let’s face it – we don’t take our kids to see pediatric specialists just because we want to stop in and say, “Hi!” or “Look how great things are!” Even after all this time, and as much as I love the doctors and therapists my children have seen over the years, clinic visits are always stressful and I rarely walk away feeling like I’ve gotten everything I needed out of the time spent there.
Sarah Kate’s last visit, two weeks ago, was probably the best experience we’ve had – end result notwithstanding – and I attribute the (mostly) smooth sailing to some choices I made before we ever got there; a few additional choices would have made it even better. Following are six tips from my own experience that I hope will make your next clinic visit go smoothly:
1. Take a partner, and not necessarily your spouse.
My dad went with us to Sarah Kate’s clinic visit, partly as moral support and partly as Nathan overseer. The arrangement turned out to be ideal, because my dad, by nature of his role as out-of-town grandparent, has a natural (some might say … ahem … “healthy”) distance from the day-to-day of our lives and is less knowledgeable about treatment options and the details of her condition. At first glance, that might seem like a disadvantage, but it wasn’t. He didn’t have preconceived ideas about what was best and thought of questions that I didn’t, yet he’s vested in Sarah Kate’s care plan because of his relationship with her. Win-win.
2. Take a notebook and pen.
It’s tempting to believe you’ll remember what the doctors and/or therapists say, or to think that you’ll be able to type things quickly on your phone or tablet, but take my word for it: a notebook and pen is quicker. You may not be able to get down everything that you hear, but even if you just write down snatches of words, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to figure it all out after you leave when you do a debrief with your partner (and hit up Dr. Google).
3. Take video.
I took my iPad with this video cued up. Although the video was created for the blog (and posterity), it was helpful in both the orthopedic and rehab clinic visits. The orthopedist was able to see how much Sarah Kate had regressed since June of last year, and the rehab doctor – a new physician who replaced the previous one – was able to see a brief history of Sarah Kate’s progress by watching the whole thing from beginning to end. Doctors and therapists make notes to help them recall details, but if it’s been awhile since your child went to clinic or the doctor is new, the video will be invaluable. So many descriptions are subjective, as well, and a video helps paint a fuller picture than words alone can.
4. Take photos.
The one thing I didn’t have in clinic that I wished I’d had were photographs of Sarah Kate standing, taken from the front, back, and sides. I took some photos from those angles about a year ago, but I didn’t remember to bring them with me. I’m not sure that the photos would have shown the doctors anything that the video didn’t, but they might have, and if the video failed for whatever reason, the photos could have been Plan B.
5. Let your child talk and answer questions as much as possible.
After years of speaking for a young child that didn’t understand most of the doctor-speak, I have finally begun to encourage Sarah Kate do more of the talking and answering of questions. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get her to answer something, and at times I had to remind her of things she needed to share, but more than once she told the doctor about a specific concern or ailment that she hadn’t previously mentioned to me.
6. Take snacks.
Specialty clinics are often (usually? always?) affiliated in some way with teaching hospitals, and where there’s a teaching hospital there are residents learning their way – however long you expect the clinic visit to be, it’ll probably be longer than you estimate. Sarah Kate’s clinic visits were scheduled for 10:30 and 1:00 on the same day in the same area of the same building. We thought we’d have enough time to grab a quick sandwich – at least at the McDonald’s drive thru across the street – but by the time the first clinic visit was finished, it was time for the second one. Kids (and adults) can get cranky when their blood sugar drops, and that’s the last thing you need on clinic day.