Monday, March 14, 2011

When It's Time to Change Pediatric Practices

This past week Sarah got hit with a bug that led to a 105 temperature.

While some of you may be gasping, this is not terribly unusual for Sarah when she gets sick. While she doesn't get these fevers often, thinking the last one may have been well over six months ago, Sarah's body doesn't joke around and escalates the numbers to be really high.

Sarah has always ranged high with her fevers. That's just how her body reacts to infections.

In fact, because of this, Daniel and I have it down to a strange science on how to manage Sarah's fevers when they do occur.

We have nothing against going to the emergency room (ER) but only go if it's absolutely necessary and especially if the approaches we are taking, with guidance from the doctor, are just not working.

For the most part, we end up just being told it's a "garden variety" virus that needs to run its course and that Sarah needs rest and lots of fluids.

This type of illness, with fevers so high, unfortunately, is the product of what happens when we have a child in daycare and school settings. Especially at the young ages where kids are still wiping their noses with their hands and arms and sometimes mouthing toys, there is only so much we can do to prevent illness. The germs are everywhere.

However, if one more person says to me that Sarah will be better off for it, getting sick often at this time in her life, I will scream.

We are very meticulous about washing hands and sanitizing without over doing it. Sometimes, we just have to let our kids get dirty and explore knowing there are sometimes germs they will pick up. Kids are going to get sick and we just have to roll with the punches as best as possible.

Before we moved this past year to our new city we were really happy with the pediatric practice chosen for Sarah's care. I pride myself on the investment in time and energy spent identifying and committing to the right place for us. It was so hard to leave them.

However, when we moved to our new home I did my very best to conduct the same approach but time was just not as much on our side before Sarah got sick and needed to be seen by a doctor. After a decent amount of research I came across a place I was hopeful was going to be a good fit for us all.

Today, I was proven really wrong about this.

The one time we took Sarah to this pediatrician practice we had as good an experience as we could have had based on what was needed for Sarah at the time. And, she seemed comfortable with the doctor as well, which is incredibly important. No matter how much we as parents may like a doctor, if our children feel ill at ease with them then they are not right for our family. Our children need to feel comfortable as well when having a doctor help with their care or we will never be able to take them to be seen and treated.

However, today, and I only admit this now, that I felt a nagging discomfort, and general dissatisfaction with how were were treated initially by the house staff at the pediatric practice I chose. These individuals who answer the phones, manage the billing and address the patients from the front just weren't that friendly and helpful. I sort of felt like we were somewhat of an inconvenience to them. I know, strange. I tried to shrug it off thinking I was making more out of it than needed be.
Yet, I experienced this today again.

These individuals who I called in need to help me with Sarah, who was sick and needed follow- up from her ER visit, told me that we could not get an appointment for our "sick kid." I was baffled by this. I was blown away. These people didn't even give me the chance to speak with a nurse or doctor about Sarah's situation and instead told me to go to the ER if it was that bad or to schedule an appointment for later in the week.

Call me crazy? But, this doesn't normally happen, and shouldn't. At least, from my experience with Sarah's former pediatrician and amazing staff, we were ALWAYS told we could come in and that they would make time to fit us in. I never expect to be seen right away but to at least be given the courtesy of having my child be seen to confirm that there isn't something more serious going on or that would require an ER visit.

I was stunned by this situation that I started calling around to friends and family in the area asking about their doctor's who I didn't necessarily look into at first based on location and other factors, and timing. However, due to this issue, I was willing to drive today however many miles to get Sarah seen by a medical professional willing to see her in a non-ER setting.

Thankfully, I was able to connect with a mom friend, who's child is also in Sarah's class, and connected with her pediatrician's office. They were able to make room for us to have Sarah be seen right away based on her symptoms.

Ironically, this pediatric practice is the same name as ours; however, different location. Turns out that they are not associated with each other. They are all franchises owned by different people. So, let's just say that I don't intend to go to the location we started with and fully intend to switch upon further research and experience.

Especially when we have a sick kid the last thing we want or need to emotionally deal with is being turned away. I was blown away by the fact that Sarah could not be fit in at the pediatric office we joined even if it meant having to wait a few hours. This was disheartening and stressful to take.

When we have a sick kid we want to know that our needs will be heard and that the pediatric practice we choose will address our needs. We needed to go through this experience, unfortunately, to find this out but glad we had a support network to help us find a back-up plan.

My suspicions were accurate.

While Sarah was getting better there was one nagging symptom that did not change. Turns out she has an ear infection that escalated, and medication was necessary. Not only did Sarah get the care from a concerned doctor, but Daniel and I were also very pleased with the administrative staff too who were at the front lines when we called and there to comfort us while we waited to see the doctor.

Sarah did not need to go to the ER today. What she needed, and fortunately we found somewhere else, was a practice filled with people willing to help beyond their existing patient load, because that is what they do.

In fact, both the doctor and administrative staff were appalled when we told them we were turned away at the existing practice in which Sarah was a patient.

As parents, this job of parenting is hard work. However, we should NEVER, never settle for less than what we feel is important especially as it pertains to our kids. I started to question whether I was being unrealistic in needing and requiring a medical practice that understands the importance of making time for sick kids even when they don't have appointments available or the practice has a fully loaded patient schedule that day.

It's important that we choose our pediatrician's wisely. If at any point we feel discomfort, we should certainly address. Sometimes it's not always easy to do that. If there is something more that makes us question our initial decision to join a practice as a patient, it's okay to decide to leave it and start somewhere else. That is the beauty of free will and health insurance. We have the right to choose. And, we should not beat ourselves up if what we thought was best turned out not to be. It's just as easy to move on and learn from our experiences and do what's best for our kids. Parents make mistakes too and aren't always the best judges of character and quality. Experience is what helps guide us along with good friends, family and support too.

Choosing a pediatrician is a lot like dating. Finding the right relationship takes time. We will know when we find the right fit. Sometimes we have to "date" before we find the right relationship that makes all involved comfortable, happy and well taken care of.


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