Sibling Check-Ups

  • BY Dr. Rebecca Butler
  • January 20, 2020
By Dr. Rebecca Butler

Pediatricians face a unique challenge that, generally speaking, adult providers do not typically encounter. Most medical practices struggle with how to schedule patients throughout the workday while still maintaining good medical care with minimal patient wait time. Pediatric offices also struggle with balancing multiple siblings at their well-child check-ups scheduled within the same visit. The longer I have been in practice, the more evident it becomes that these double or triple booked visits oftentimes, on one level or another, result in medical care that is sub-par to the standard I personally wish to uphold.

Imagine your typical yearly physical. It’s probably booked for 20 to 40 minutes. Since you, like many of us, may see your physician only once a year, it is important for you to have your physician’s complete attention and to have all of your concerns addressed. Some of these concerns may be sensitive in nature. Your physician may ask you some probing questions about matters you consider private. None of this is out of the ordinary for a typical annual physical, and during this time, you most likely do not divert and ask medical advice about your husband, relative, child, etc.

sibling-Doctor-Visit-INTERIORNow imagine bringing your spouse or friend to your medical check-up. Not as support for you, but they have an appointment with the same doctor booked at the same time in the same exam room! You go back at the same time, and your histories and exams are blended together. On top of that, if, in fact, their medical history is more complex than yours, they easily need more time and attention. Also imagine, as I see very often with siblings, that this person is naturally chattier than you and indeed very happy to jump in and provide their own answers to questions your doctor asks of you. And privacy? Forget about it.

I hope this imaginary scenario strikes most people as entirely nutty, not to mention entirely avoidable. Who would book their annual physical with another person?

Many of our patients come to see us once a year, often during the summer or on holiday breaks when school is out. If they have siblings, they are very frequently booked together, sometimes even three at a time. Parents oftentimes think nothing of having their 14-year-old daughter undergo her annual physical in the same room at the same time as her 9-year- old sister and her 7-year-old brother (with asthma and ADHD), even though they would never think of doing the same thing with their own health care. Why is that?

I know the answer: convenience. I get it, BUT our kids deserve better. They deserve the same amount of time and attention as an adult patient. For obvious reasons, children are seen with parents or other caregivers, but there is no reason they must be seen with other siblings. Yes, even twins! Twins are people too, people deserving of the same basic dignity and autonomy as any other patient. But when I’ve gently suggested to parents of twins or other siblings that they should consider bringing them in separately, they look at me as if I have three heads.

I still try my best to give parents the convenience they seek, so we don’t restrict the booking of multiple appointments together. But parents, I implore you: Consider treating your kids the way you would want to be treated.

I speak all of this with respect, empathy, and understanding for how crazy things can get for all parents. This is in full regard to my passion for providing comprehensive and complete medical care to each and every patient as an individual which unique qualities, characteristics, and needs.

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