Avoiding Conflict in your Pediatrician’s office
Conflict is one of those ugly words that can rear its head anywhere, even in the pediatrician’s office. Through my years as a pediatrician, I’ve seen so many different conflicts, from simple disagreements to parents swearing and threatening their providers, even providers losing their cool and discharging families from their practice. I’ve realized with appropriate communication and a little bit of understanding on both sides, a lot of heartache and conflict can be avoided.
1. The office
The visit starts from the minute the family walks into the office. The general cleanliness of the place sets the tone for the rest of the visit. You may think you have no influence on how an office is ran but in most offices, there is a suggestion box where parents can make suggestions. If you find the office unclean or even the ambience unsuitable for your family, say something. In offices where teenage patients were uncomfortable visiting because of the ambience and screaming babies in the waiting room, changes have been made based on parents suggestions. Practices may create a separate waiting room for teens, with more age appropriate shows and a more suitable décor. The office atmosphere can make a difference in avoiding conflict. Simply speak up. Your healthcare providers will listen and when appropriate, make the necessary changes.
2. The office staff
The front office staff is literally the face of the practice and the way they respond to you definitely helps prevent conflict. If the front office staff unfriendly, put that in the suggestion box too, with examples of what happened and how the staff can improve. Management takes this very seriously. Ask to speak to a supervisor about your grievances. Perception is everything. It was most likely not the staff member’s intention to be rude or unhelpful but if you perceived it that way then changes need to be made. It is not helpful for you to get upset and yell. It definitely has a negative effect. The supervisor may spend time calming you down instead of listening to and solving the real issue. You may not be in a good frame of mind to explain what your real problem is and unfortunately sometimes, it may put the office on guard when they interact with you all leading to a less than perfect resolution. Talk to the appropriate person and make sure you have been heard. Chances are changes will be made to avoid any future conflicts and to make your visit a pleasant one.
3. Nursing Staff
I love the commercials on TV that show how loving and supportive nurses can be. They really want to make the experience for you and your child as pleasant and delightful as they can under the circumstances. It’s often times a pleasure for me to see how nurses and medical assistants interact with the children and make them laugh and smile. It sets a good tone for the providers during the visit. Parents play a role in how the nursing staff interacts with your family. Be courteous to them. Please answer their questions. Some parents are defensive when asked certain questions but nobody is trying to put you on the spot. We really do need the information. Don’t lash out at the staff when they are trying to do procedures like drawing blood or a urine catheterization for younger kids. No one wants to hurt your child. We are all human and less than perfect and it may take more than one attempt for a successful procedure. Concentrate on comforting your child. Shouting on the staff and making them more apprehensive makes them more likely to fail the next time. The nursing staff and medical assistants, lab techs, X-ray techs etc. are all here to make your visit a pleasant one. Please assist and help them to so.
4. The provider
Most families have a great rapport with their providers, especially when they feel that the provider heard their concerns and addressed them and gave them the care and treatment they expected. There are some times in which your provider may give you advice contrary to what you expect. A typical example is when a parent demands a test or antibiotics that the provider thinks are not necessary at that particular time. Rather than getting upset and yelling at the provider, discuss this rationally and give the reasons why you want that particular test or antibiotic etc. Then, listen to what your provider has to say. Often times what you are requesting without being completely informed, may cause more harm to your child.
There is a joke made about a lady who went to her doctor demanding a new prostate medication she had heard about. Obviously she did not know that she did not need this medication… since she has no prostate. This is often the case when parents insist on what they want without fully understanding the implications. Physicians and providers are human and can definitely make errors. Please educate yourself and ask appropriate questions. Providers learn a lot by listening to their families. You live with your child so you know them better than we do. We take your concerns very seriously. If you feel that you were not heard, ask more questions or discuss this with the office management. Sometimes the problem may just be things were not explained to you adequately enough for your understanding.
Be honest with your provider without being rude about it. We also want to improve and make your office visit a pleasant one. Avoid yelling and discussing your visit in front of other patients, which increases tension for yourself and for them, creating further conflict in the office. Remember, when all else fails, you have the right to a second opinion. Providers do what they do because they want to help make lives better for you and your children. You are important in making this happen. Realize the power you have in reducing conflict in your pediatrician’s office and use this to make the experience a great one for both you and your children.
Conflict in the pediatrician’s office, can easily be avoided by appropriate communication between parents and staff members at every level of interaction. Parents and staff members working together as a team have the power to make the office visit an enjoyable experience for everyone. Together, we can make this experience a great one, one day at a time and one family at a time.