How to Advocate for Your Childs Health
What Is Advocacy in Healthcare
You may be thinking, "really Dakota?". Do you really think that you need to talk about how to advocate for my child? Hear me out. Of course as parents we are always advocating for our children in the everyday things in life. Unfortunately, when it comes to healthcare I think there are a lot of parents who are reluctant to question their healthcare provider because we think "they are the expert". However, I am giving you permission right now to advocate for your childs health just as you would any other aspect of their life.
One thing I learned right off the gate when it came to working in pediatrics is that you have to listen to parents and take their concerns seriously. No one knows your child better than you do. So if something feels wrong, don't stop until you get an answer that you are satisfied with. Healthcare providers are human. We miss things, we get things wrong from time to time. A lot of times I have kids come into the office for a sick visit and they are bouncing off the walls and in no way acting the way that the parents are describing them to be. Parents will say "I swear they were not acting this way when I made the appointment" or "this is not how they were acting earlier". I quickly reassure them that I believe them. Kids are not just tiny versions of adults. They are unique. They compensate very well when they are sick and they change so quickly.
How to Advocate
Ask questions. You may have had times where you leave your childs appointment with uncertainty. Maybe you didn't feel like you were able to fully express the situation. Or maybe you didn't feel like the diagnosis or explanation made sense for what is going. Never be afraid to ask questions. If you need to call back or send a message to clarify things that is okay. This is also a good time to get out your notepad and write down your concerns or put them in your notes app on your phone so that you can make sure that you address everything that you wanted to before you leave.
Follow up. Maybe you initially brought up a concern to your childs provider and you were reassured that this was normal, but you are thinking "I know my child and this is not normal." Part of our job as primary care providers is to provide reassurance to parents on things that are normal vs. not normal. However, if something continues to feel off despite your questions being answered, then you have got to trust your gut. If something persists, worsens, or changes then you should circle back and make another appointment or call back.
Get a second opinion. You always have the right to a second opinion when it comes to your health. I always recommend keeping in mind that providers are human, so maybe they need a second chance to address your concern. However, if you continue to feel like you are getting pushback on something you are concerned about, then you should seek out another point of view. This also is true with your primary provider. If you feel that a problem or situation may require more specialized care, you can always ask for a referral to a specialist. Just be aware that another part of our jobs as primary care providers is to send referrals that we only feel are requiring specialty care, as the amount of specialist appointments are limited and not always necessary.
Stay in the know. The nice thing about 2021 is that modern healthcare technology allows us access to our childs medical record in real time. Most healthcare systems use an electronic medical record that grants parents access to their childs healthcare information from the convenience of an app on your phone. Here you can keep track of any labs or imaging studies that your child has had done and make sure that there is no loose ends when it comes to follow up or abnormalities.
Being on the other side of this situation as the one providing care to children, I would much prefer a parent to ask questions or speak up when they are unsure of something, rather than sit with this feeling of unease. Most of the time kids are unable to express themselves accurately, or are not yet able to speak for themselves, so it is YOUR job to be their voice. This is not something that you should ever apologize for or feel guilty about.
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