A pediatrician’s rant

As a disclaimer, I know there are more than 10 things people wish their doctors would do differently. As physicians we often fail our patients by being rude, paternalistic, dismissive, not showing compassion, not taking people seriously, not listening well, etc. Not to mention all those tonsillectomies pediatricians are apparently performing just for the money.

Maybe I’m feeling ornery from being 9 months pregnant (HAVE I mentioned that lately? Oh, just a few times. Ok).  But here is a list of my personal top 10 things as a pediatrician that I wish patients would stop doing.

1. Don’t threaten your child with “a shot” if they are being bad in the office. First of all, it’s an empty threat (see the previous post about how I feel on that one) as we’re not going to give them one. More importantly, we give vaccines because we believe in them and we think they help your child stay healthy. Kids hate shots enough already without being made to think we are using them as punishment.

2. Don’t ask your child “Do you want to get a shot today?” It’s the incredibly rare child that will say yes to this. I probably would have because I thought they were interesting, but I was a weird kid. I’d estimate as a completely unscientific guess that 97.6% of kids will say “No” when asked this question. Be the adult, decide if you think they need the shot and then tell them they are getting it. Or decide against it and tell me that you’re choosing not to do it. Either is fine, but don’t try to make your child make the decision.  I’m not talking about older kids or teens. Lots of times it’s very appropriate to involve them in medical decision making. And sometimes with younger kids it makes sense to say “you have a choice to do this now or next week/month/year”. But people ask  their kids all the time if they want a shot when in fact the parent has already decided they need it.  And the they are surprised that the kids say no. Sometimes the parent then still really wants the child to get the vaccine but has now pretty much painted themselves into a corner.

3. Don’t always show up late to appointments. Please. Pretty please. I know people get frustrated at having to wait for their doctor and sometimes think it’s only fair that the doctor wait for them. (Why doctors run late is another post.) But one big reason is that what happens every time a person is 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes late it makes the people scheduled after them have to wait. The more times this happens the further behind we run. I personally try really hard not to make anyone wait more than 15 minutes (this is the same amount of grace time we give patients before telling them we may need to reschedule) but sometimes it happens. I know sometimes things happen out of patient’s control also and they will be late. That’s life. But please don’t be a habitual offender.

4. Don’t answer your cell phone during your child’s (or your own) appointment. Hopefully, this one is obvious and doesn’t need elaboration.

5. Don’t let your kids play with equipment and supplies in the exam room while you are waiting. Otoscopes and opthalamoscopes are not toys and are really expensive. Tongue depressors, gloves, measuring tapes, etc are not toys either and multiplied by many patients are not an insignificant cost either. Bring toys or books to use while you wait as distraction or play some good old-fashioned games like I Spy or 20 Questions.

6. Don’t delay treating your child because you want me to see the symptoms. People do this a lot. “I didn’t give Tylenol because I wanted you to see the fever. I didn’t give the nebulizer because I wanted you to hear the wheezing. I didn’t wipe away the drainage from the eye or nose because I wanted you to see it.” I will believe you that the child had a fever or was wheezing or had a yucky runny nose. If you treat it and it gets better, that’s actually useful information to me. All delaying the treatment does is make your child suffer.

7. Don’t save the real reason for the visit until the end of the appointment. I think people do this because they are nervous (? maybe) or have had bad experiences with health care. But it’s really common for someone to come in and only at the very end as I’m leaving do I hear “Oh, by the way….”. And the by the way is clearly the main reason they are there. I’ll still address the “by the way” issue if it comes at the end but it would be much easier to hear it upfront.

8. Don’t yell at the front desk staff or nurses and then be nice to the doctor. Most of the time the front desk and nurses do not make office policy. If you have an issue with a policy ask to speak to the office manager or one of the doctors. If the office staff or nurses are rude or unprofessional then file a complaint with the doctor or office manager. We do genuinely want to know if our staff is not treating you with the respect you deserve. But too often people take out their frustrations on the office staff and then turn around and are nice to the doctors.

9. Don’t ask me medical questions about your child when you see me at the grocery store or pool or library or wherever. I just want to be a Mom when I’m out with my kids.

10. If we are in a social setting please don’t start attacking me about vaccines when you find out I’m a pediatrician. If you don’t vaccinate that’s fine, you have that right and I can respect that decision.  But it’s really offensive to have to sit through someone’s rant about vaccines. Especially if you include statements like “I won’t let the doctors get their hands on my baby” or “Doctors are all corrupted by the pharmacutical industry. They don’t really know what they are doing.” Believe or not, I find those statements highly offensive. (And yes, they have both been said to me by people in friendly social settings like baby showers.) I’m not going to argue with you as it’s rude to whoever is the host.  I’ll probably just smile and excuse myself to go look for some punch. But it makes me not want to be around you again.

4 thoughts on “A pediatrician’s rant

  1. It’s too bad any of this comes up often enough to warrant a list — this stuff should all be common sense/common courtesy. Do people really wait to “show you” (#6) before taking basic steps to relieve their kids’ discomfort? If I were a doctor, that would make me crazy.

    The lack of manners in #10 could be applied to many fields, and I agree — it’s annoying. My husband is a police officer, and when people first hear this they usually either: relate some sad tale about how they were pulled over once and the big mean police officer gave them a ticket they didn’t deserve, or ask them if he can make a recent ticket go away. (Yeah, I’ll get right on that. Nice to meet you, too!)

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