Routine checkups, sports physicals and well visits – no matter the reason, the pediatrician’s office becomes a family’s second home from a child’s earliest moments of life through late adolescence.
That’s why it’s so important to establish a relationship with your child’s doctor, says Dr. Salvatore Ventimiglia, a pediatrician at Shelby Pediatric Associates & Child Lung Center.
“I think in a lot of ways it’s about a partnership,” Dr. Ventimiglia says. “It’s kind of (like being) that surrogate grandparent in some ways.”
Pediatricians offer advice, reassurance and education to families. So, whether it’s your 6-month-old’s development, your teen’s anxiety about high school or helping your family cope with a crisis, a pediatrician is always there.
Here, Dr. Ventimiglia offers some advice for parents on getting the most out of their child’s pediatrician.
In the midst of an office visit, it can be easy to forget your questions. Whether it’s notes on your phone, a few questions on a Post-It or a typed spreadsheet, Dr. Ventimiglia suggests compiling questions and concerns before the appointment.
“In the first year of life, that sometimes tends to be a great way to really get all their questions done,” he says.
Prioritize your list to hit the most important points first.
“When it comes to organizing the visit, I think having good notes on hand is very helpful for parents,” he says. “Sometimes it also helps organize how I am going to examine the child.”
For example, if a parent is concerned about a food allergy, then the doctor might get into more detail on how the child is eating before he jumps into the rest of the examination.
And while it’s common for parents to hesitate to ask a question for fear of sounding silly, don’t let that stop you from addressing concerns, Dr. Ventimiglia says.
“In so many ways people worry,” he says. “I never really want anybody to think their questions are crazy or silly.”
Instead, pediatricians prefer to discuss issues as they arise so there aren’t any surprises later on.
Be sure to fill out any paperwork, which you can typically access on the pediatrician’s website, prior to the day of the appointment. This keeps you focused on the visit.
Ask the nurse
They gather your child’s vitals, administer vaccinations, schedule appointments – and so much more. Nurses truly are at the forefront of each pediatric practice. “Those people tend to be the front door of our office,” he says. “They definitely serve a big purpose.”
For those random non-emergency questions, a nurse practitioner is the No. 1 person to call. Pediatricians can get backed up with office visits and might not be able to come to the phone to answer your question. That’s where the nurse comes in. Many offices have nurse extensions or triage lines where you can reach the nurse to discuss your child’s issue and help you decide whether it’s worth an office visit or a call back from your child’s doc.
Find your doctor
While it is common to rotate through doctors, particularly during those earlier years of your child’s life, it can actually benefit families to stick with one physician for their routine well care, he says.
“If there’s someone who has a chronic medical condition, having a consistency is more important than the well child,” he says. “To establish the relationship, it’s always better to see one or two doctors.”
However, during sick visits, your child might end up with a different doctor than they are used to. That’s OK, too. In fact, it’s not a bad idea for each doctor to be familiar with your child. Ultimately, though, sticking with a select pediatrician or two is the way to go for well care.
For more information or to make an appointment, visit shelbypediatricassociates.com.