A doctor talks with a young teen. When you know how to advocate for your child at the doctor's office, you can ensure your child gets the care they deserve.

Are you tired of taking your child to their pediatrician and feeling like you didn’t get your questions answered or your child’s problem adequately addressed? This unfortunately happens to a lot of parents. I’m going to walk you through how to make things better. When you know how to advocate for your child at the doctor’s office, it can make a huge difference!

Advocating Doesn’t Have To Be Intimidating

Advocating for your child should not make your relationship with your doctor an adversarial one. If your doctor has a negative reaction to your thoughtful advocating, it may be time to find a new healthcare provider. You should be working with a professional who is not intimidated or offended by being questioned. A great pediatrician is skilled at listening and collaborating with parents.

Potential Barriers To Advocating

  • Medical staff are often in a time crunch and rush through things.
  • Medical staff can get distracted.
  • Parents can become distracted by the very child they brought in to see the doctor!
  • Dr’s that don’t listen.
  • Parents who lack confidence.
  • Not knowing how to advocate.
  • Parents lack of medical knowledge.

Overcoming Communication Challenges

With all of the potential barriers to effective advocacy, how can we walk that fine line between providing constructive questioning and experiencing a contentious conflict? Here are some tips:

Be calm

Parents who yell at healthcare professionals are doing a poor job of advocating for their children. Emotions can run high in a doctor’s office, but it’s not an excuse to be verbally abusive to staff members. (Yelling is also likely to get security involved in most healthcare facilities.) Keeping your cool even when you are feeling frustrated is far more likely to get people to listen to you.

Be Assertive

Being assertive is a communication style that is direct. It takes into account another person’s rights and feelings but is also honest and transparent. When you are assertive, you are confident in explaining your point of view without becoming aggressive.

Be Concise

The longer story a person tells, the more likely the listener is to miss key details. Figure out the most important ideas you would like to share with your clinician.

Be Prepared

Have a plan of what you want to say and the points you want to get across. Do some research on the diagnosis or problem you are discussing so that you have a basic understanding.

Be Confident

It may feel awkward at first to advocate when you have. a disagreement with a healthcare provider. Just remember, you are the expert when it comes to your child! You are a vital part of the healthcare team. It’s okay for you to make sure your child receives the care they deserve.

Know Your Rights

Knowing your rights in a healthcare setting is crucial when it comes time to advocate for your child. Here a few of them:

  • The right to be treated with respect
  • The right to privacy
  • The right to confidentiality
  • The right to express concerns
  • The right to receive education in an understandable way
  • The right to participate in decision making
  • The right to access your child’s medical records in a timely manner
  • The right to a second opinion
  • The right to informed consent
  • The right to refuse treatment
A young mom and her daughter chat with a doctor.

What To Do When Your Doctor Isn’t Listening

There are times when during an appointment we don’t feel like the healthcare providers are listening or acknowledging our concerns. Although it may feel uncomfortable, it’s important to speak up. Be honest about how you are really feeling, and don’t feel bad about giving feedback.

Understanding Advocacy

What does it mean to be your child’s advocate? The word advocate means to argue on behalf of someone. An example of this is the job of a lawyer. Lawyers argue at the behest of their clients in front of a judge or a jury. Their job is to represent their client’s best interests. All of their efforts are to bring about the most advantageous outcome for the person they are representing.

Things You Can Say When Your Doctor Isn’t Listening

  • “I don’t feel like you heard everything I said before.”
  • “I want to be sure you understand me. I know you are busy, but you seem rushed.”
  • “This visit is important to me, could you slow down a bit?”
  • “I’m not sure how this is going to help my child feel better.”
  • “Let me explain my concerns.”
  • “I don’t feel like this appointment has been helpful to me.”
  • “I don’t feel like we have solved the problem we came in with.”

How To Maximize Communication With Your Doctor

Use Notes

Before the doctor begins to examine your child, they will often begin by asking questions about why you came. Be sure to take some notes before you go the doctor’s office so that you can remember to communicate all the details you want to share. This is an opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings about why you are having your child seen, and what you hope to get out of the appointment.

Use Closed Loop Communication

In a clinical setting, closed-loop communication is used to improve communication between medical professionals. You can use it when talking to your doctor! What is closed-loop communication? It is a form of communication used to prevent misunderstandings. In closed-loop communication, someone gives a message, and the person who receives that message repeats it back.

What are some of the benefits of closed-loop communication?

  • Encourages collaboration
  • Improves task completion
  • Helps you to more clearly understand the needs of your child
  • Assists with problem-solving
  • Conflict resolution
  • Knowledge sharing

An example of closed loop communication is when you use the drive-through at a fast food restaurant. Once you’ve placed your order, the employee should read it back to you. Reading your order back to you gives the customer an opportunity to correct any mistakes.

How Do I Use Closed-Loop Communication With My Doctor?

Once the doctor has explained something that you are not sure you understand, repeat back what you heard to check for comprehension and clarification.

For example, if your doctor tell’s you about some tests they’ve ordered, you go back over the information to make sure you heard them right.

“You said you want to get an x-ray. Can you tell me again why you are ordering it and what you are looking for?”

“You just listed a bunch of blood tests, can you explain what you are thinking?”

Making sure you understand the plan of care for your child and feel comfortable with it is essential in advocating for your child.

Know Where To Go For Additional Help

If you aren’t comfortable with your doctor’s plan or reasoning, seek out a second or even a third opinion. If your doctor or any other healthcare provider has not respected your rights, ask to talk to a manager or supervisor.

Don’t Give Up

Sometimes it can feel like an uphill trying to get someone to listen to you. Keep asking questions, and don’t stop until you have the answers you need. Your child’s wellbeing and health are always worth fighting for.

A woman chats with a doctor.

Final Thoughts

We take our children to the doctor because we need the specialized help that we know they can provide. Don’t hesitate to speak up when you feel ignored, or don’t understand the doctor’s plan. Just remember to communicate in a cordial and non-threatening way.

Healthcare providers are there to help you! When you both communicate effectively, you’ll have a better therapeutic relationship with your doctor and your children will receive the quality care they deserve!

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