Monday, May 10, 2010

Your Pediatrician and You!

 I recently did a review of Jen Klein's book, The Mommy Files, was sent this article to share with you, my readers! Enjoy!

Partnering with Your Child's Pediatrician in the Internet Age
By Jen Klein,
Author of SheKnows.com Presents -- The Mommy Files: Secrets Every New Mom Should Know (that no one else will tell you!)

The relationship with your child's pediatrician is unique. The pediatrician is not your physician -- even though you may call her or him "my" pediatrician -- it is your child's physician. And learning to work well with this medical provider on behalf of an initially non-verbal, non-decision making little being can be a challenge. It can be a wonderful relationship, it can be a challenging relationship, and it can be any variation in between -- or even all of the above at various times.

Both you and your child's pediatrician have the same goal in mind: the ongoing, long-term health and development of your child. Your approach to that may be rather different -- but you each need the other. You bring knowledge and details of your child's day-to-day doings, development, and personality while the pediatrician brings years of education, training, and practice to the exam room. Neither can contribute to appropriate medical decisions without the input of the other. It's always been thus -- but there hasn't always been the Internet.

To fathom the broad impact of the Internet is impossible, really. It touches so much of our lives, expands our world view, and brings us so much information -- but also presents new challenges. How do you know that what you read on the Internet is true? Or valid? Or at all applicable to your situation?

You can see this in microcosm in how this vast network of words and pictures and stories -- and the occasional bit of data thrown in -- has affected our interactions with medical care providers. We go to the web for medical issues big and small. Sometimes we are right and sometimes we are wrong. We may joke about self-diagnosis on the web, but it's no joke really. And especially not when our kids are involved. Search engines may return results, give you clues to bigger issues, and start you down a productive path, but they are not an education in and of themselves. The Internet is no substitute for partnership with a medical care provider.

So how do you identify and build that partnership in the Internet age? By focusing on same issue that built the relationship before we carried the Internet on our pocket-sized phones: communication. From strong, clear communication you will build respect and trust with your child's pediatrician to the benefit of all of you.

While the Internet is an astonishingly useful tool for discovering potential pediatricians for your child, and vetting credentials and experience, nothing beats face-to-face contact. Meeting a potential medical care provider for your child gives you a sense of communication chemistry -- on both sides. It's a first sense of, "Will this person take my child's health and development seriously? Will she listen to my concerns about my child's growth and my parenting? Can we work together for my child's benefit?" Likewise, on the other side, the pediatrician herself similar has questions about you.

Once you have identified a pediatrician, on-going communication with your child's physician is about more than a preference for phone, email or in person. It's about your words, your tone, and your body language when you speak to one another, too. Endeavoring to communicate openly and honestly with the pediatrician builds trust in each other and respect for one another. It's an understanding that the relationship is a partnership for the benefit of your child.

Your child's continued health, well-being, and development is the shared priority and you come to that shared goal with different skill sets and knowledge bases. Communicating truthfully and openly helps both of you make the best use of what you each bring to the relationship on behalf of your child. You may be communicating on behalf of the patient in this doctor-patient relationship, but your child is the patient -- not you -- and the doctor is your child's doctor.

Your child's physician uses the Internet, too. She or he has a general idea what is out there -- the helpful and the less-than-helpful. Physician and Internet are not mutually exclusive: the doctor and the Internet can complement one another, often quite effectively. One can help you understand the other, but only if you are honest with the pediatrician about your efforts and communicate your interests or concerns.

Respect and trust is a two-way street, and it's built over time. The doctor-patient relationship depends on real-life personal interaction, one that takes into account nuance as much as concrete symptoms and lab tests. This was true before search engine results for obscure symptoms were seconds away, and it will be true even as the Internet develops further. Nothing replaces the human touch, literally and figuratively.

Not everything you read on the Internet -- or anywhere, really -- is true. Not every circumstance applies to your child. Just as you would think it ridiculous and probably insulting if the doctor were to walk into the exam room and say, "I read on the Internet that mothers who wear blue shirts pay less attention to their children," statements from unvetted Internet sources can sound just as inane to your child's pediatrician -- and lower that hard-earned communication-based trust. Obviously, "I read on the Internet that . . . " is never a valid basis for an important medical decision -- but asking for help in discerning, clarifying, and understanding what you read online can be a valuable part of your communication and can help build the partnership with the pediatrician.

The Internet is a tremendous tool in our lives, though we are still learning how to harness it to its best effect. Where once there was implicit trust between doctors and patients (or patient's mothers), the Internet has helped push us toward doubt and distrust -- sometimes warranted, though often not. Somewhere in the pendulum swinging between blind faith and rabid skepticism lies the productive middle ground in that ever-shifting sand of a relationship with a medical care provider that is not actually 
your medical care provider.

© 2010 
Jen Klein, author of SheKnows.com Presents -- The Mommy Files: Secrets Every New Mom Should Know (that no one else will tell you!) 

Author Bio

 
Jen Klein is a mother of two boys and a girl, the youngest of whom just started kindergarten. After earning a thoroughly useful degree in art history and studio art, she writes technical documentation. But in her primary job as mom, she's dealt with nearly every parenting scenario imaginable, and appreciated every slobbery toddler kiss along the way. Klein has been a contributor to SheKnows.com for the past two years and writes a weekly parenting column called "Monday Mom Challenge" in addition to regular articles. She lives near Boston, MA.

For more information, please visit www.SheKnows.com.

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