Posted December 15, 2015 by Katrina McCarty, MPA
"We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude." — Cynthia Ozcik
For many years I took my health and healthcare for granted until I had a reason not to. My experience
with an unruptured brain aneurysm profoundly changed my perspective, and my role as a parent is causing it to change even more.
A friend and healthcare leader who both helped bring me to NICHQ and to realize this new perspective, sums it beautifully: "Time, authentic relationships, continuity, trust and empathy are the foundation of true healthCARE1." The emphasis on relationships between doctors, patients and families resonates deeply with my own experience, as well as what I see in my work at NICHQ.
This is the lens through which I see my 4-year-old daughter’s relationship with her pediatrician, Dr. Z. It starts with "magic" Band-Aids, but it is about so much more.
After giving her shots, Dr. Z gives my daughter amazing, sparkly Band-Aids. (Pediatricians somehow have the market cornered on cool adhesive bandages.) Dr. Z unwraps them, and my girl is entranced. Dr. Z shows my daughter how they sparkle and says they are magic. My daughter needed two shots at her last visit, and the Band-Aids stuck around for several days and
several baths after because my girl didn’t want to take the magic off.
What sticks with me is how Dr. Z cares for my daughter as a whole little person. She builds trust with my daughter one visit at a time. At 4 years old, my daughter is talking up a storm and absorbing information like a sponge and our visits with her doctor are increasingly interactive. It's adorable.
"Dr. Z, my nose spray smelled like chocolate cake," she says. Dr. Z giggles and tells her a little boy said his smelled like broccoli. It's a little conversation that means the world. My daughter loves seeing Dr. Z.
The older my daughter gets the more I realize the visits with her doctor are setting an important stage. This relationship may subtly or profoundly shade how my daughter views herself, her body, her health, her relationships and even her dreams—what we can see we may believe we can become. Dr. Z is empathetic, smart, patient and caring. She is what I wish all doctors could be, for kids, for all of us.
These things I don’t take for granted:
- Dr. Z meets my girl at her level. She talks with my daughter, not at her. If my daughter seems anxious, tired, sad or wired, Dr. Z tones her actions and words accordingly. She takes time with us and remembers things about my girl that show she cares and listens.
- She gives my daughter space to ask questions. Dr. Z asks my daughter if she has questions about her body or anything else. Even if she doesn't get an answer, she opens the door. Someday Dr. Z just might hear a lot. I'm grateful Dr. Z might become someone my daughter trusts to talk to about things she might not want to discuss with me.
- She explains what she is doing AND in terms my daughter can understand. She speaks with a vocabulary tuned to the age and development of my daughter. She talks about the magic Band-Aids or says her special light looks like the moon. My daughter can relate to that. She names body parts and how they work so my daughter can learn. She isn't talking down to my daughter; she is reaching out.
- She talks to my daughter about how important it is that her body is hers. At our last appointment, she talked in simple, caring and important language about why she was going to examine under my daughter's underpants. She talked about why it's important that my daughter or I (as mom) give consent.
- Dr. Z is a profound ally in raising a confident, empowered and healthy little girl. And I am so grateful for the lessons she teaches my daughter–and myself–at every visit.
1. Thomas H. Dahlborg, MSHSM, Relationship Centered Compassionate Care / Servant and Relationship Centered Leadership, Author-Speaker-Consultant-Advisor, Dahlborg Healthcare Leadership Group, 2015
Katrina McCarty is the grants and contract manager at NICHQ.