So I wondered how I would follow up a deeply personal post like my last one – and then my son got sick.  And it got me thinking about my pediatrician and how AWESOME she is.  I’ve become convinced that pediatrics is 90% customer service and 10% medicine.    I really thought I would be a tough customer, and yet I remain thrilled – and fascinated – by what it takes to run an office geared towards keeping kids healthy and safe.  Before having my own child, I would have had no idea how to evaluate or think about selecting a doctor for my baby, and I was so stressed when we had to name our pediatrician on our hospital intake forms BEFORE he was even born.

A few things that make our practice great:

Excellent off-hours support. This is key. I never feel like I have woken someone out of a sound sleep or interrupted them when I call. The answering service is excellent and a nurse calls back. Our practice even has evening and weekend hours which has saved us more than one trip to the emergency room.    This is especially helpful because – as I learned through my last after-hours phone call – babies’ fevers tend to go up at night.

Never made me feel rushed. Not even when our then newborn needed to nurse and then get a diaper change or three at exactly our scheduled appointment time. Not even when we showed up with a wheezing baby ten minutes before office was supposed to close, and he still needed to eat dinner.  The doctor and nurses were super laid back, gave us time to dress him, feed him, and ask as many questions as we had.

The parents are patients too – mental patients. I know I am neurotic and I’m okay with it.  I own it. If you had the life that I have had, it’s perfectly reasonable to be a little skeptical about the universe having your back.   But I hate being made to feel crazy, especially by doctors. Plus, I have a data point of one – my child – so how am I supposed to know how a belly button is supposed to smell?  That smell could be normal belly button smell or a sign of a life-threatening infection. Or whether a small red dot on his butt was the sign of a serious skin infection.  They took my call, and answered my questions.  Our pediatrician did not even bat an eye when I asked her to watch our son eat a mum-mum (a dissolvable rice cracker) to make sure he could do it without choking to death.

Clever, clever lines.  I love the way the nurses are so smooth – its such an art to take people seriously, reassure them, and keep them from flooding the doctors office an emergency room unnecessarily.  They are true parental pick-up artists.  Sure, there are times that I wonder whether I’m getting played, but mostly I just enjoy being managed so well.  A few of my favorites include:

  • Oh, a high fever with no other symptoms?  Yes, we have been seeing a lot of that.   Oh, your baby has grown a third arm and it’s blue? Yes, we have gotten a bunch of calls with those same symptoms.
  • Its probably just a virus, but please call us back if anything changes.   Or call us back if nothing changes except your level of anxiety.
  • You did the right thing by calling (even though a hangnail is not a medical emergency).

So if you have a pediatrician, I hope you like yours as much as I like mine.  If you don’t have a kid, well, maybe you will be as fascinated by the anthropology of a pediatric office as much as I am.  Maybe you have a dog, and you feel the same way about your vet!