Here’s a typical summertime scenario pediatric offices regularly encounter:
Your child needs a physical exam in order to participate in a fall sport. Enjoying the warmth, relaxation, and good health of the summer, it only occurs to a parent in mid-August to call the pediatrician’s office for an appointment. By that time, of course, our schedules are completely full (and then some). Parent gets mad, office staff gets flustered, doctor, in an attempt to retain sanity among his office staff and in his own mind, creates a minuscule opening into a hopelessly packed day to accommodate the family. Sometimes the time offered works for everyone and sometimes it doesn’t work. First day of school comes and the scenario folds up its tent until next summer.
What do parents do if they can’t get their child — a teenager most likely — a sports physical or annual well child visit on the date and at the time they need it or want it? Parents are busy, kids are busy, pediatricians are busy, and scheduling a time to come in for an office visit can be a tricky 3-way dance. Pediatrician Molly O’Shea has seen more than one patient go to their school doctor, a local urgent care center or pharmacy for a sports physical and miss the opportunity for a complete and thorough annual check up from their own trusted pediatrician:
If this mom was ready to accept a sports check up at school as adequate, who else was willing to as well? Her kids have even had some chronic health issues (that they’ve luckily outgrown) and some school issues as well (that they have navigated well). And yet apparently I haven’t done a good enough job of explaining how a tween/teen check up with us is different, MORE than just a heart check and scoliosis screen to make sure the kiddo is safe to play.
I believe children deserve the chance to form a bond with a pediatrician they respect and trust as much as parents deserve it. Strong bonds are healthy and are formed over many office visits over many years, and at chance encounters in schools, at ballfields, and in the grocery store. Regular well baby exams give way to annual office visits by the age of three and all visits, including sick ones, are crucial for establishing this important relationship. By the time adolescence is afoot, we — doctors and teenagers — have a lot to discuss. Dr. O’Shea explains:
The adolescent well visit in my office involves having a conversation about early signs of anxiety and depression, about substance use and abuse, about sex and sexuality, about relationships with parents and peers. We will discuss healthy eating for athletics and life, discuss how to be physically active even if you hate sports. We talk about periods and condoms and chlamydia and cancer screening. We talk about screen time and social media and their links to anxiety and depression. We talk about sleep and driving habits. We talk about body image and bullying, racism and sexism; we talk about academic successes and struggles and the importance of keeping it all in perspective. We talk about increasing independence and encourage parents to back off sometimes or get back involved sometimes. This is just the start. Each adolescent brings his or her own agenda and through our open dialogue often other topics get discussed as well.
We do all of this AND we make sure the adolescent is safe to play sports. We do screening tests for heart health and make sure kids have the vaccines they need for cancer prevention and college.
That is what we do.
Is your child due for their annual check up? Do they have a camp physical that needs to be completed, a driver’s physical coming up, or a sports physical due this coming August? Things get busy and time goes fast. Call your Pediatric Alliance office or request an appointment online through our NextMD Patient Portal and make that appointment. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover!