After you complete medical school, you might feel like the hard part is over. However, it is only the beginning. Countless challenges await you in your professional life. One of the biggest challenges for most healthcare professionals is learning effective communication. Learning about them is one thing, but you only get to practice and implement them while working in a healthcare unit. Even then, communicating with children can be more challenging.
Children by nature are sensitive, impatient, anxious, curious, vulnerable, and terrified of hospitals. And why wouldn’t they be? Some children think they lost a grandparent because they went to the hospital and didn’t return. Plus, seeing all the equipment and inhaling the strange smell of antiseptics only makes them feel sick. And let’s not even begin on their phobia of needles! Even if the child is brave enough to make their way into the hospital, an ill-suited approach will put them on edge and avoid seeing a doctor or nurse. So how can medical professionals provide better care and services to young patients? If you’re a curious medic who’s terrible at dealing with kids, continue reading.
6 Effective Child Healthcare Tips
1. Acquire appropriate raining
Everything from children’s diagnosis to treatment approaches differs from those of adults. Therefore, professionals who intend to dedicate their time to childcare should acquire the necessary training and knowledge. For example, professionals working in the ER should opt for Pediatric Advanced Life Support training to help kids who need urgent help. It is the equivalent of BLS training but is geared towards infants. Fortunately, management can encourage their staff responsible for treating kids to acquire a PALS certification online without wasting much time. Some healthcare organizations also have a compulsory PALS certification and recertification requirement for physicians, nurses, and paramedics.
2. Make the environment comfortable
The mere thought of hospitals scares children. Having pictures of the human anatomy on the walls will only intensify their fear. Try redecorating to make the ward a little more child-friendly. Keep a basket of unisex toys like a race car, dinosaur figures, stuffed rabbits, etc. Ensure that you sanitize these regularly and communicate the same to the parents. The children can hold on to these toys during their appointments to ease off their stress. Having papers and crayons to doodle will also help children remain calm while in the waiting room.
3. Let them open up to you
Most children are extraordinarily anxious during their first visit to the doctor. Don’t expect their parents to calm them down because they may not be doing so well either. Your priority should be to let the kid become comfortable and develop a relationship of trust with you. You can start by engaging in a friendly conversation. Talk about anything but their health or the hospital. Ask them about their vacation plans, favorite subject at school, hobbies, favorite fast-food chain, or anything that makes them feel more relaxed around you. It’ll also allow the parents to trust you with their child.
4. Communicate on their level
You can’t just practice one communication style for every child. Each age group of children differs in intellect and communication patterns. You can’t walk up to a 5-year-old and tell them that they’re diagnosed with pharyngitis. Instead, tell them that they have a sore throat and it will get better in no time. Au contraire, you must not use the same approach with teenagers. They’re already upset about the fact that they have to see a pediatrics doctor even when they’re so “grown-up.” Heck, they can probably even spell pharyngitis with an F! Instead, treat teens like adults. Educate them about their condition the same way you’d educate an adult. Don’t use singsong tones and baby talk.
5. Acknowledge the child’s bravery
It is a considerable achievement for a child to conquer their fear of visiting the hospital, and you should give credit for it. Cook up stories about how you always hated the hospital when you were their age and that they’re too brave to be here. Always appreciate them after jabs. Tell them that even some of your adult patients can’t sit calmly while being poked with a needle and that you’re surprised with their (the child’s) courage. A small reward in the form of a sticker or candy would be nice.
Walk them through the procedure
Half of the anxiety is due to the uncertainty about what’s going to happen. You can help your pediatric patient to get ready by walking them through the appointment. Explain before you touch them to avoid scaring them off. Tell them that the stethoscope is going to feel slightly cold. If they’re getting jabbed, honestly tell them it’ll hurt. If you tell them it won’t hurt when it actually will, they’ll have trust issues for life. You can either use a topical anesthetic or distract the child by talking about the parts where it hurts. You can also ask them to give you a hand while holding something. Children love helping out. It makes them feel more in control.
Communicating with children is very difficult but also so joyful if you do it right. Remember that kids walk into the healthcare environment scared and anxious. Step one is to allow them to warm up to you. Avoid using complex vocabulary with younger patients. Similarly, don’t try to think of teenagers as school-going kids. Treat them like you’d treat other adult patients. Appreciate children from time to time for keeping up with the appointment. Lastly, be honest about the unpleasant parts, or they’ll never trust you with their health again!