Today’s post is directed towards all you fabulous pediatric medical professionals. We see a lot of you. We place our kids’ health in your knowledge and skill. Our kids trust you.
Yesterday, I took J to see a new doctor. He’s had a problem with his pinky toe since July and we were learning whether laser surgery would be an appropriate solution. The doctor opted to go another round of a topical acidic treatment, combined with some meds at home. This was all fine, until he got ready to apply the medication and promised J it wouldn’t hurt. He applied it to an open wound, instead of just to dead skin. J screamed for an hour straight.
How do you think J is going to act towards that doctor next time we see him? How willing do you think he’ll be to let us apply the at-home med?
I don’t understand the doctors and nurses who tell a kid the shot/IV/etc. won’t hurt. It might keep the child calm in the immediate, but it erodes trust in the long-term. This is a particular issue for kids with chronic illnesses, who will need many medical procedures over their lives. Not all medical procedures are going to be pain-free, and that is a sad part of life.
Even young children remember what happens at doctor appointments. Before J could talk, anytime I said we were going to the doctor he would point to his arm and make a sad sound to ask if he was getting a shot. If he walks into a room that looks like an OR, he flips out. He’s not going to forget what happened yesterday.
There are many aspects of his environment that my son doesn’t get to control. I want him to feel as in-control as he can when it comes to medical appointments. No, he doesn’t get to choose which procedures happen, but it’s reasonable for him to expect to know what’s going to happen to him and to be given tools to cope with that. Yep, J cries when he knows he’s going to get a shot, and we tell him where he’ll get the pinch. He also knows that he’ll get a sticker after, and that he can squeeze my hand during. I may not tell him far in advance, but I do tell him when he can expect a shot, so that he knows I’m honest when I tell him he’s NOT getting one, too, and doesn’t have to spend the entire visit worried something is going to hurt.
But medical professionals, I need your help too. I may not always be around when something bad happens, or I may not know what to expect from a given test or medication. My kids need to know they can count on you to listen and respect them when they need help. That trusting relationship saves lives down the road, and it starts now, when they’re little.