by Sue LeBreton
Taking your child to see a medical specialist dredges up a complex mixture of emotions. Understandably, you worry about the condition that has caused you to seek the assistance of this specialist. Add in your hope that this expert can provide answers. Stir in any intimidation you feel if you are not a medical person and you have a recipe for a stressful interaction.
You can ease your anxiety about this meeting through preparation. If you spend some time before the appointment detailing your child’s health history in writing you will demonstrate that you respect the busy schedule of the specialist and you will maximize the benefit of the interaction. Think of yourself as a fellow detective providing evidence to help the specialist solve your child’s case. Remember, even things that seem unrelated to you can be significant to the medical expert. Err on the side of too much information.
Your primary tool is a detailed document that includes your child’s name, date of birth, medical number if applicable and a notation that this was prepared by you on this date. If your document has multiple pages, number the pages and ensure these identifiers are on each page.
What else should you include in your child’s health history? Start at the beginning, no matter the age of your child. Was your pregnancy normal? Was your child born full term? Were there any complications during pregnancy? Were there any complications during delivery? Was the baby delivered naturally? Did your baby require any medical interventions at birth? Did you breastfeed and if so, for how long? How would you describe your baby? Fussy? Easy? Do you have other children? What is the status of their health?
Note developmental milestones such as when your child first sat, waved goodbye, walked, was toilet trained and talked. If your child is in school, how do they perform academically? Does your child require any modifications or accommodations at school? Has the teacher noticed any changes or behaviors of concern? Has your child’s eye sight and hearing been tested? Note the results and timing of any such tests.
Has your child ever been hospitalized? If so, when, for what reason and for how long? Is your child currently on any medication? Bring medications with you so that the specialist can confirm dosages. Detail any previous use of medications and why they were discontinued. Remember to document any supplements or alternative therapies. Has your child seen other specialists? Include their names, dates and any follow up that has resulted.
The specialist may be interested in either parent’s medical conditions. Include conditions that you experienced even if you have grown out of them. Remember grandparents on both maternal and paternal sides, do they have any medical or psychological issues? Even if you think these conditions are unrelated, try to give the specialist as much information as possible. This is no time to guard family secrets.
When did you first become concerned about this issue and why? How often do you see symptoms or behaviors that concern you? Have you tracked symptoms on a calendar? You may notice symptoms only on certain days of the week or seasonally and that pattern can give the specialist important clues.
Take a deep breath and reassure yourself that despite the expertise of whomever you are interacting with, you are the expert concerning your child. Give one copy of your carefully prepared heath history to the specialist and keep one for your personal reference. This will help you stay focused and remember important information. It is easy to forget pertinent details when you are experiencing stress. Also, you can be distracted trying to placate a child who may not want to be there. Bring a pen and notebook to scribe any instructions or questions you cannot answer in the moment.
Open up your original document and add the details of your visit including the doctor’s name and any recommendations made. Note any follow up. Try to do this as soon as possible after the visit when your memories are fresh. As you add to your document, are there any questions you forgot to ask? Add them to your document so you have a record to remind you to address them in other visits with this specialist or other appropriate professionals.
Sue LeBreton is a health and wellness journalist. Her two children have had serious medical conditions providing her with many interactions with the medical system.