A recent study confirmed that there is limited time with pediatricians for well baby care. The Pediatrics study surveyed parents retrospectively about their well-baby visits with pediatricians; 1/3 of parents reported having less than 10 minutes with the doctor! I say this can still be a great place for partnership, reassurance, diagnosis, and care even if time is limited. As a parent, you have to be a pro, too. Plan ahead, prioritize questions for the doctor, and help set the agenda for the visit when the pediatrician walks in the room. It’s always okay to ask (anything) and it’s always okay to return for follow-up visit, too.
Maximizing Time With Your Baby’s Pediatrician:
- Set an agenda. The minute the pediatrician walks in the room, tell them what you want to learn during the visit and what worries or stumps you most about your baby or your parenting. If you help shape the agenda, you’ll avoid those painful “door-handle” conversations where the doc tries to leave (because there are other patients waiting and there is no more time) and you feel rushed and dejected. No one likes those conversations. If your doctor isn’t good at agenda-setting, you can be. Remember this is a partnership, not a dictatorship…
- Because time is unfortunately always limited, prioritize your questions. You may have 15 questions, but list them out in order of concern/preference. As your pediatrician asks their own questions and completes a comprehensive physical exam of your baby, it’s possible to ask others and you may find yourself surprised that they addressed concerns you had without prompting. But prioritize so you don’t forget the last (and possibly most important) question of all.
- It’s always okay to ask. ANYTHING. Don’t shy away from questions because your doc has limited time. If necessary come back a week or month later if you’re still wondering about something you need to clarify.
- It’s okay to schedule a follow-up visit. One of the pitfalls in well baby care is that many parent want to squeeze 2 or 3 visits into one. During a well baby visit, there is a lot to accomplish (some studies find that docs are supposed to cover over 50 topics). So if you are also concerned about an acute or new illness/behavior problem, consider scheduling a separate visit. You’ll likely all be more satisfied with how you can get what you need and how you can partner to protect and prevent illness and injury for your baby or child.
- Don’t leave empty handed! Ask the doctor what websites or online references you should read for more information after the visit.