How to Prepare for a Doctor Visit



A trip to the pediatrician is an opportunity not only to learn about your child’s well-being but also to get an idea of what to expect in the coming months and years. Your child will begin visiting the doctor just a few days after birth and will continue seeing a doctor throughout adulthood. We want each trip to the pediatrician to be a positive experience for both you and your child, whether it is for a well-being check or a sick visit.  Here are suggestions on how to make each and every visit successful.

Get to know your pediatrician.

The partnership between you and your doctor is the most important piece of your child’s health care. Taking time to research your doctor’s education and training, areas of interest and years of experience can set the stage for a successful relationship. It is important to find a doctor with whom you are comfortable communicating all of your concerns. Good health care, like good co-parenting, requires open and honest communication about what is best for the child.  No question should be too small or too embarrassing when it comes to the health of your child.

Make the most of your child’s visit

To maximize your time with the doctor, it’s a good idea to come prepared.  It is useful to arrive early to check in at the front desk and update insurance and contact information.  When meeting a pediatrician for the first time, parents should bring their child’s vaccination records and any medical records from a previous doctor.

For established patient appointments, it’s helpful if parents can share all of their concerns at the start of the appointment. This way, your doctor can manage the appointment time to cover the important issues. For example, if you are visiting a doctor to refill a prescription, but your child has recently been complaining of ear pain, make sure to let the doctor know about that issue at the beginning of the visit so there’s time to address it.

What about after-hours care?

As any parent knows, feeling sick or getting hurt doesn’t always happen during regular business hours. It’s tough to be at home in the middle of the night with a sick child.  And weekend sports are an easy way to score an injury. Having access to medical advice at any hour, including weekends and holidays, is extremely helpful and reassuring.  

Fortunately, many situations can be handled without a trip to the emergency department. Here’s how the process works in our practice at John Muir Health as an example. During the day, patient calls are routed to our advice nurse to discuss routine care, answer questions and help decide if your child needs to be seen in the office.  After hours, our practice provides an advice nurse who offers home treatment options or directs patients to urgent care/emergency services as needed. The advice nurse communicates with the doctor on call  to keep everyone up to date. We know how worried parents get when their child is sick, therefore we encourage parents to call for advice any time of the day or night. When choosing a pediatrician or physician practice, it is important to ask about after-hours care before you realize you need it.

When should you go to the emergency room?

In some instances, emergency services are needed for a higher level of care. Examples include the need for intravenous medications or fluid hydration, ongoing monitoring of a child, or the need for medical imaging after hours.

In all cases, we prefer to speak with the patient’s family first so we can be in direct contact with the emergency department to help coordinate care. We encourage families to use an emergency department experienced with caring for children.

Recommended outside resources

While the internet is a wealth of information, unfortunately not all of it is accurate. A wonderful website is HealthyChildren.org, which is run by The American Academy of Pediatrics. This website is backed by a panel of 66,000 pediatricians who are committed to the comprehensive care of your child. It addresses a wide range of medical issues for all ages, from newborn through adolescent years.

Jennifer Dovichi is a pediatrician practicing in Orinda, who is currently accepting new patients. To learn more or schedule an appointment online, visit johnmuirhealth.com. Advice is not intended to take the place of an exam or diagnosis by a physician.

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