How to talk to your child's doctor
I have a new book coming out later this month from Prometheus Books. Titled How To Talk To Your Child’s Doctor: A Handbook For Parents, it’s not strictly about the PICU, as my first one was — this one is about communication between you and your child’s doctor, something relevant to all aspects of pediatric practice.
Like ships passing in the night — that’s how to describe what too often happens when you bring your child to the doctor. You do your best to describe your child’s problem; meanwhile the doctor listens and tries to fit what he or she is hearing into a diagnostic box. Most times the exchange results in your child getting what is needed, but this is too often in spite of, rather than because of, the dynamics of what happens in the examining room.
My book concerns a common and pernicious communication difficulty between doctors and parents. The problem is not language, although medical jargon sometimes impedes communication; the root of the problem is world view. Few parents understand what doctors are listening for when we talk to parents, and how we use what parents tell us to solve medical problems.
Both doctors and parents are increasingly pressed for time, making effective communication and understanding between them more important than ever — misunderstanding is wasteful and sometimes even dangerous. Additionally, these days many children rarely see the same doctor twice, and more and more encounters with doctors happen in emergency departments and walk-in clinics, places where you and the doctors are strangers. In these conditions you need to learn how to make the most of your brief time with the doctor.
The book will admit you to a doctor’s mental medical universe and explain how physicians solve problems. It will not make doctors of you, but it will make you better partners in the diagnostic and therapeutic enterprise when your child is sick. If you like, you can read the first chapter here.