The field of pediatric dermatology is wonderfully rewarding; however children do funny things when they are anxious, scared or sense strangers. The following are 10 tips I suggest to reduce the stress of a pediatric visit for your patients and yourself. Some of these I learned myself, some from mentors.
1. Address the child by their first name
Make sure you know how to pronounce the name before doing so. Ask the patient and/or parent the proper pronunciation if you aren’t sure.
2. Make small talk with the child
Small talk for children includes asking them if they go to school, about their favorite books or television programs, and about toys and objects they have brought with them, as those are clearly significant to the child.
3. Offer praise and compliments
Complimenting the child on a nice outfit, being well-dressed, good behavior and sharp questions may promote a child’s willing participation in the visit. I don’t want to brag, but I do think my patients are the best accessorized. Complimenting a well-prepared parent or one who remains calm during procedures doesn’t hurt either.
4. Reduce stress through acknowledgement
Everyone in the room is nervous about their most precious asset: their child and their child’s health. Diffusing the stress by acknowledging the invisible friend “stress” that has come along may reduce anxiety all around and validates an individual’s concern.
5. Calm parents with stats
Letting people know they aren’t alone is important. For example, give them a fact such as, “One percent of the population will develop alopecia areata,” or, if you see 50 eczema cases a month, let the parent and child know. There’s less stress in numbers for them and a sense that you know what’s happening is fostered.
6. When doing procedures, remove shoes
Children kick like bucking broncos at times. Remove the shoes. Soft feet hurt less than hard soles.
7. Prepare parents and the child through chatting
Letting people know what is going to happen before it occurs diffuses some reactions.
8. Promote literacy
Keeping age-appropriate reading material for kids of all ages makes waits less painful and promotes literacy.
9. Young children have no object permanence
Giving incentives or rewards to small children in advance of procedures- e.g. stickers, etc. makes the difference for all age groups, but reduces stress best if given in advance of procedures in the younger patient.
10. Smile and speak in a sing-song or modulated tone
A pleasant calm physician is best appreciated all around. Speak softly and show your pearly whites!