Dealing with doctors - Tips for moms

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Doctors offices can be scary places for moms. I'm not talking about germs.
When I brought my first child into the pediatrician for her first newborn appointment, it was kind of traumatic for me. My daughter hadn't gained back her birth weight like she should have and the doctor put a lot of pressure on me to increase her weight. And when I say "a lot of pressure", what I really mean is "bullied me with fear tactics".
As a first time mom, I felt like this doctor had complete control over my life. We saw her 4 times before my baby was a week old, and at every appointment she wielded her almighty clipboard, ready to cut me down with words like "NICU admission" and "failure to thrive". The appointments ended in tears and the occasional curse word. I didn't like the way my requests for help breastfeeding were met with offers of formula. I knew this doctor wasn't the right fit for me, so I switched pediatricians and future infant well visits went much better.
I feel very lucky that this first experience with a pediatrician happened while my husband was finishing his doctorate degree. I had the opportunity of making friends with the families of doctors of the future. For me, the experience of meeting these doctors as students made the entire medical profession human.
The best realization I had during this time was that the personalities of doctors were as widely varied as the personalities of my friends. Some were warm and friendly. Others were incredibly reserved. Some never stopped talking and just flaunted their medical knowledge all over the place, even when people didn't want it. Everyone was different, and that's a good thing. That means that there are lots of doctors to pick from to make sure they are a good fit for your family.

How to know if a doctor is a good fit

When you walk into a doctor's office for the first time, its almost impossible to know what kind of personality they have or if they will be a good fit for your family. Before you visit, its helpful to get recommendations from friends or your community. Once, when we moved somewhere new with no friends or family, I used Yelp to find a pediatrician and it worked out great! Reviews and recommendations will give you a good feel for the office before you even go in.
After an appointment or two, you should have a pretty good indication of whether or not things are going well with your child's doctor. A good doctor will:
  • treat your child warmly, patiently, and kindly
  • listen to you and address your concerns
  • take you seriously if you think there is something wrong with your child
  • be up-to-date on your child's specific health concerns (should be easy if they read the chart!)
  • speak to you respectfully and take the time to explain diagnosis and treatments

    Basically, are they being nice and helpful? They should be. A doctor's job is to be on your advisory board to help you be an expert on your child. I repeat: YOU are in control of your child's health, not the pediatrician. They should equip you with their very best so you can help your child.

    Signs you might want to switch doctors

    Sometimes you just get who you get when you go in the office - whether you didn't do your research beforehand (I'm guilty), they were the only Dr. available, whatever. It might work out great. When it doesn't, its okay to make a change. You'll know if you need to switch doctors when:
    • You have opposing views on important medical decisions. For example, if you decide to not vaccinate your child but your doctor heavily advocates for them even after you've explained your stance, its probably not a great patient-provider fit.
    • You feel unheard at appointments. When your concerns are pushed away with phrases like "You're just spoiling them." or "You should just feed formula instead of worrying.", its an indicator that your doctor isn't listening to you.
    • They don't remember your child. I'm not talking about remembering their name or their personality. If your kid has a chronic or acute illness or a birth defect those should definitely be memorable and talked about as they are highly relevant.
    • You don't feel comfortable sharing information about your child because you feel you will be judged or shamed.
    • For whatever reason, you don't feel like you can ask questions when you don't understand something.
    Personally, I think one of the reasons well checks are so important is so I can get to know the doctor. I know that if we are on the same page about my child's health, we are both better equipped to help my kid be healthy and safe. If I don't feel comfortable during well checks, that feeling will only be amplified in stressful situations like illness.

    Doctors are here to help YOU!

    If there is one thing I want you to remember, its this: You are the mom. No one knows your child better than you. A doctor's job is to give you expert advice on how to help your child but you always get the final say - on medications, treatments, surgeries, and providers. That's a lot of responsibility. Some people are content to trust blindly and blame when things don't go great, but not you, mama.
    You got this.

    Do you have a great tip for moms in the doctor's office, or a positive experience to share? I want to hear about it in the comments!
    © Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.