by Joyce Clay
In order for your child to receive comprehensive medical care, it is essential that your doctor partner with your family and child, especially if your child has special needs or is medically complex. Doctors who care for these special groups face challenges heightened by the complexity of the patients they serve.
The medical delivery of the physical, psychosocial, and spiritual care needed for persons with special needs or chronic health issues is at best challenging for the patients, their families, and the caregivers involved in this process. The limited amount of time available to primary care doctors necessitates the need for the doctor to organize and plan prior to the encounter with the person or family. Likewise, the patient and family can increase the effectiveness of the encounter by identifying their perceived priority physical, mental, or spiritual needs.
Helpful Traits to Look for in a Doctor
The doctor with keen communication and listening skills will foster his/her relationship with individuals with special needs and their families. As you navigate the health care system, the doctor is essential to helping your child and family achieve this task. The doctor who has listened well and formed a partnership with his/her patients and families is often called upon to “advocate” for them. From the first phone call to the comprehensive report sent to another medical system, this doctor is a key player in the medical delivery of health care this patient receives.
Creating an air of openness helps the doctor to foster a positive patient and family relationship. The elimination of physical and emotional boundaries aids these individuals in their quest to provide information. Doctors who give the patient/family their full attention help keep the focus on the individual and their supporting caregivers.
The traits of a doctor willing to partner with families include:
- Avid listener
- Empathizes with his/her patients and their families
- Spends enough time to build a trusting relationship with the family and child
- Is a “competent” physician
- Addresses issues in a timely manner
- Is available, or has another team member available when concerns are expressed
Helpful Traits for Family Members
The responsibility of the patient and family is also well recognized. It is unfair to think that all medical issues will be solved in one visit, and in some cases, ever. Patients and families need to be willing to provide the primary doctor with the medical, psychosocial, or spiritual background information that will help them or their loved one gain increased health and ultimately improve their quality of life. Additionally, parents and their children need to realize that the doctor and his/her team is invested in the well-being of patients and families, and when setbacks occur, all members of the team feel the frustration.
Parents who believe they have “all the answers” because they are living with the issues on a daily basis have lost their objectivity to provide and gain assistance from those who want to help them with their medical and other issues. All members of the team, including the patients and caregivers, need to develop the art of listening, as much can be learned from really hearing what the person or team is trying to say.
Traits that are helpful in family members to partner with the doctor include:
- Avid listener
- Prioritizes concerns
- Collaborates with the doctor to develop a plan of care
- Is willing to acknowledge the expertise of the doctor
- Provides truthful answers to questions raised by doctors and associated team members
- Recognizes that your child may not always be able to be the main focus of the doctor, as life happens for everyone
In conclusion, it is imperative in today’s medical climate to facilitate a strong relationship with your child’s doctor. Ultimately, patients, caregivers, and doctors must realize that life is a journey and the partnership forged will create life-changing results for all.