Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What do I do if I take my kid to the emergency department and I think he's sicker than they do?

This happens sometimes. You rush your child off to the emergency department, convinced they are deathly ill. Your child is seen by a provider who really isn't impressed by their illness, gives you some advice and sends you home. You think.. but wait.. that's it??

I've been on both sides of this.

The most important thing to realize is the provider who sees your child probably does have more medical knowledge than you do and has seen this before. You do need to trust what they are telling you to a certain extent.

That being said- if you do not agree with what you are being told you absolutely deserve an explanation that consists of more than 'your kid is fine, you can go home'. Here's what I suggest.

1. Ask the provider what they think is wrong with your child.
2. TELL THE PROVIDER WHAT YOU THINK IS WRONG WITH YOUR CHILD. Sometimes it's obvious to me that the parent is worried about something but it's not always clear to me what it is. If you are worried that there is something going on, make sure you tell them so they can either consider it as a diagnosis or tell you why you should not be worried about this.
3. Ask for an explanation of what the provider thinks is wrong.
4. Ask why you they think that is the problem. (Any provider should be able to explain their reasoning to you)
5. Ask why the provider is not worried about the problem you are worried about. Sometimes I see parents who are very worried about something that really isn't a problem, like hard skin around a blister. Your provider should be able to explain this to you.
6. Ask for SPECIFIC instructions about what to do to care for your child at home and SPECIFIC instructions about what to do if your child gets worse and what problem would the provider worry about (I'm not worried if a kid hasn't peed for 3 hours but I'm worried if they haven't peed for 10 hours for example)
7. If you are not satisfied with the results of this conversation then keep asking questions until you are. You can also ask to speak to the attending physician if you want to. This may be especially important if you are dealing with a resident.
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