“You must think I am a crazy mom for bringing my kids so often to the clinic,” she said. “And every time we are in the office my kids act perfectly normal and happy. I swear that Johnny WAS sick at home.”
I said, “Mom, I TRUST you. You are doing a great job.” A tear fell down her cheek. It hit me like a ton of bricks.
Although we, as pediatric providers have heard this said one too many times, this time I realized the magnitude of the reassurance. This got me wondering about all the times patients say this. As part of pediatric training, three important traits are instilled in us through meticulous teaching and life interactions.
- We trust you – it is implicit and complete. No questions asked. We also understand that the way parents interpret illness is very different from the way a provider interprets it. How do we know this? Many of us are parents and we see the best of our training failing us when our own child gets sick. We defer to our colleagues for care. So, if you panicked that your child was having breathing difficulty, and the doctor tells you it is just a cold, please know we trust what you tell us. However, due to our medical training we are able to tease out the diagnosis. Also, we all have our radars way up for the parent who says “my gut says something is off with my child. I just don’t know what it is.” From experience and trust we know that when parents say this, they are spot on. We go above and beyond the norm to figure out what is going on with the child. So please don’t be afraid or hesitant to come in with vague complaints. We trust you, no matter what.
- A lot of pediatric practice is based on empathy. We empathize not only with the child, but we also empathize with the parent. A diagnosis of colic, after excluding worrisome possibilities is hugely relieving for the doctor in the room with a fussy newborn. However, every time I deliver this news I am deeply empathetic to the parent. I apologize for this diagnosis. That is because at 2 a.m., after two weeks of dealing with a colicky child the adult brain starts playing tricks. I have had many severely sleep-deprived parents tell me they will accept any diagnosis but colic because there is little to no control over this. I even had one parent tell me she would even accept a diagnosis of cancer but begged me not to tell her that her baby had colic – this was her third baby and her first two were severely colicky. The physical and emotional fatigue of caring for another life is a huge responsibility. We get it as a provider, but more importantly as parents ourselves. Many times, I cannot solve the illness, but I will sit with you and hold your hand and cry that life is not fair and I don’t get it either.
- No judgment. We never ever judge you. Never. Period. Very early in our training, we are taught that judgment and preconception clouds our medical decision making. Many of us have been burned during early medical training by this and have learned to never judge. As a first-year resident in training, I remember an incident where I had a newborn baby brought in by a very calm mother of four kids. She said the baby had some vomiting but nothing much. I judged her poise and calm as indicators of the child’s stable condition. When I moved the baby’s blanket from the car seat I was terrified. I saw a severely dehydrated baby with sunken eyes and shallow breaths. I knew right away what was going on with the child. I grabbed that baby in my arms, pulled the mother with me and ran down the stairs to the ER from the clinic screaming like a mad woman for a crib and an IV set to the ER staff. The baby was resuscitated and did great, but the incident was forever etched in my mind. Whether parents panic or are poised, we sharply demarcate what needs to be done for the child versus what needs to be done for the parent and do both. There is no judgment there.
Please bring in your child, tell us whatever is on your mind about your child, and we will take it from there. No judgment or blaming.
We deliver the best medical care with complete trust and empathy. We are on your team. Together, we’ve got this.
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The post is part of a series of sponsored post by Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines.