As I prepared to see my health care provider , I made a list of things I wanted to talk about. I wondered how parents could better prepare for their child’s next office visit. Here are some suggestions which might improve your next visit.
Make your appointment for your child’s next visit, especially if you are on a deadline and need a school or sports physical. These appointments fill up quickly over the holiday breaks. Ask for the provider you want. Consider that many offices have different locations for your convenience.
Schedule an Early Appointment
Schedule a first morning appointment if you hate to wait or if you have a very tight schedule. Providers are more likely to run late as the day progresses. They tend to catch up over lunch so the first few appointments in the afternoon are also good choices. You are less likely to be stuck waiting during those time slots.
Bring Forms with You
Some camps, universities, schools, and sports require a certain form. Pediatric offices may have general forms, but if possible, bring the required form with you on the day of the visit. Fill out the parent section in advance. Give the form to the nurse checking you in.
Write Down Questions
Write down any questions or concerns you want to discuss with your pediatric health care provider before the visit. Keep in mind the limited appointment time, so having your thoughts organized ahead of time is helpful. Prioritize what you really want to talk about. Limit your concerns to just 1 or 2 items per visit for the best response. Schedule an additional visit for more in-depth discussion if needed.
Arrive 15 to 30 minutes before your appointment time. You need to check in, fill out paperwork at the front desk, and wait until you are seen. By arriving a few minutes early, you ensure that you will be ready at your scheduled visit time. Be sure to have a mask, as it is required in medical facilities at this time.
Bring a Pen and Notebook
Bring a pen and notebook to write down any directions or plans that you are given. Jot down notes during the visit. It has been shown that parents only retain about 10 percent of what a provider tells them, so by writing the information down, you are more likely to retain the important recommendations.
Don’t Bring a Crowd
Limit the number of children you bring to each appointment. Let’s be honest. Exam rooms are small. If you want to have a nice discussion and get your questions answered, it is best to limit the number of children in the room. Sometimes it cannot be avoided, but, if possible, less may be more in terms of health care quality.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions
Try to address your concerns right at the start of the visit. Don’t wait until the end of the visit to share what’s on your mind in case there is not enough time left in the visit to address the important topic.
Ask for Clarification
If you don’t understand something, say so. It’s absolutely okay to ask for something to be explained a second time. I’ve been known to say, “Talk to me like I’m three years old.” Ask if there are any handouts or print outs on the topic at hand. Most pediatric offices have the ability to provide printed information on a variety of topics.
Request samples of medications, lotions, formula, or Tylenol. Pediatric offices do not always have samples to give patients, but you never know unless you ask. If samples are not given away before they expire, they must be discarded. It is preferable to give them to families that can use them. Formula is often available. Just ask.
Make Your Next Appointment
Schedule your next appointment as you leave. It’s so much easier to book the next visit while you are in the office and you won’t have to remember how long to wait in between visits (was it 2 months, 3 months, 6 months? Hint: it varies by age). You will be all set for next time.
Please be Patient
With the current nursing shortage, offices everywhere are doing the best they can. Please be patient with the staffing shortages and bring an extra ounce of compassion for the wonderful staff, nurses, and providers at your pediatric office.