Prenatal Visit or First Date?

I joke to my staff that a prenatal visit is like a first date.  I take a few moments before I go in. Check with my medical assistant to make sure that no food or lipstick are on my teeth, straighten out my dress. Proceed with a nice hard knock on the door, firm handshake, and a friendly smile. 

This is where I make a first impression on these parents, who are shopping around for a pediatrician before their child is born. This is where I introduce myself and provide some background about my training. Sometimes, being from this area, we may have crossed paths or know common people are places which always seems to warm up the conversation a little more.

So it always starts a bit awkward. Should I talk first or do they want to ask their questions first? While they often do have prepared questions, there is a palpable sign of relief when I offer to start the conversation – maybe they are just as nervous a myself, worried their questions might sound silly? Just like a first date however, you don’t want too much of an interrogation either way and should avoid dominating the conversation. Just like a first date, you probably have some things about yourself you’d like your date to know about yourself, so these are the usual topics I want to share with the parents. Of course I make sure I pause to get feedback from them and address their questions, and to avoid rambling on… oops, did I gush a little too much, do they know how excited and flattered I am that they might want me to care for their child?

  1. Philosophy regarding vaccines. There are certain non-negotiables in a relationship, and this is one of them for the pediatrician/parent trust relationship to thrive. We vaccinate on time according to the CDC recommended schedule. Vaccinating on a special schedule, outside what is routine for the doctors and the nurse or medical assistant giving the shot, leaves room for mistakes. Spacing out vaccines prolongs the amount of time the child is vulnerable to vaccine-preventable illness, a risk we do not want to take with our patients. This also leaves our patients who are unable to receive the vaccine or have a weakened immune system at risk for getting a disease passed to them from an unvaccinated patient in the office. Giving the vaccines on time protects our herd. Check out more info here on vaccines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  2. Philosophy regarding antibiotics. For the most part, we don’t call in antibiotics over the phone. Most coughs and runny noses and even ear pain are from viral infections. Diagnosing an infection that requires antibiotics also requires a hands-on examination. We want to raise a few generations of healthy people who don’t have to worry about antibiotic resistance.  We won’t put a child on antibiotics just because that may the easiest and fastest way to finish the appointment. We will follow evidence-based guidelines and take the time to explain the treatment plan to the parents and, if appropriate, to the patient as well.
  3. The practice is part of a well-resourced children’s hospital system.  This allows the doctors to easily communicate with specialists when we have complex questions about our patients or if a patient requires an urgent referral to be seen. 
  4. We care about convenience for our patients. We have evening hours on some week nights, and we are open Saturday morning for urgent visits as well. 
  5. Mental health and teenage years may not be quite on the expecting parents’ minds just yet, but I do also mention that our pediatricians are very comfortable with evaluating and managing (with or without medications) uncomplicated mental health concerns such as ADHD, depression, and anxiety as well as needs that may concern teens such as birth control and acne. I think it’s important for parents to know that the providers in our office are very comfortable with taking care of their child as the baby grows into toddlerhood and teenhood. 
  6. Teamwork fueled by cohesiveness like a family. The doctors at my practice work really well together and the staff is always very supportive of the doctors and kind to the patients and their parents. We advocate for our patients and frequently reassess our workflow to consider areas for improvement. Most importantly, we support each other like a family – often without hesitation to switch schedules as needed – and enjoy working together. 
  7. Miscellaneous questions also come up. Whether or not to get the baby boy circumcised, when is it okay to take the baby out of the house, what if the dog licks the baby, what do I think of *insert latest marketing trend*? 

Then as the expectant parents leave, I debrief with my staff and ask, do you think they liked me and our office? Do you think they will call us when the baby is born? What did they say to you on their way out? Did they mention me? I tried to impress them without seeming like I was trying too hard. How did I do? Call me, maybe?