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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Private discussions with the pediatrician

photo source: Shutterstock
Every once in awhile a parent will tell the nurse that they want the child out of the room to discuss an issue with with the doctor privately. This is usually something they perceive as a negative thing for the child to hear, such as the child being overweight or having behavior problems.

While I understand the parent's intentions, I find this to be disruptive and counter productive. As much as I try to find an excuse to have a child leave, it is usually obvious that the nurse keeps them out longer than needed.

If we have the child leave the room, he knows something is up. We are talking about him. But not sharing with him. What could possibly be so bad that we won't talk to him about it? (How do you feel when you suspect people are talking about you?)

Then there's the issue of any patient needs to know what the issue is so we can address it. My guess is most of these kids already know what the concerns are. They need help working on them. If they are overweight, we need to talk about what they eat, how they exercise, and how they sleep. If it's behavior problems, they need to give insight into how they feel and what leads to the behaviors. They need to be a part of the plan to fix the problems. If they aren't on board, they won't change their habits. I can talk about weight (or behavior, or drugs, or whatever the concern is) sensitively and in an age appropriate manner with the child. The kids at school are likely talking about it in a not-so-sensitive manner, so it's best to not make it worse by secretly discussing it.

If a parent really wants to let a physician know specific points without the child present, find a way to do that outside of a visit with the child.
Send in a letter or secure electronic message with your concerns before the appointment. Be sure it's at least a few days before the appointment so the doctor has a chance to review it!

Schedule a consult appointment for just parents to come in without the child.
Call in advance to tell the phone nurse your concerns so she can pass it on to the physician.

Don't bring siblings to an appointment where you want to discuss a private matter about another child.

All of these means allow the physician (or other provider) to know your concerns without blatantly kicking a child out to talk about something privately.