What does your pediatrician really think of you?

For over a decade, I’ve been the one sitting on that spinny stool, talking to parents about every pediatric issue under the sun. And between the advice, reassurance, and tough questions, I came up with a few things I wish all my patients’ parents could know.

1.) I realize you’ve had a long wait, and I feel bad about it.

bored boy waiting

Right off the bat, I want to apologize. My office is busy today… Everything from a brand-newborn with antsy parents to a depressed teenager with lupus who (oops!) may or may not be pregnant. My schedulers, triage staff, and nurses have been trying to keep everything on track, but something inevitably takes longer than expected. Take heart in knowing that someday, if you need some extra time, you’ll get it too.

2.) I see the (crappy) snacks in your purse, but I am not judging your parenting.

Believe me, I know parenting is complicated. I’ve witnessed a wide range of parenting proficiency behind these doors, and I’m pretty forgiving. There are an infinite number of ways to be a thoughtful and compassionate parent, and as long as you’re trying to be that, I’m good. After all, I know what you’re up against. I’ve been there myself.

There are an infinite number of ways to be a thoughtful and compassionate parent. Trying to be that? I’m good.  Dr. McGee #pediatrician

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3.) That being said, please tell your child to stop licking the floor.

The patient in this room fifteen minutes ago had a germ you do not want. Trust me, the hand sanitizer is not here by accident. Just don’t let your kid lick that, too.

pediatric care pediatrician

4.) I believe you.

You didn’t have to stop wiping your kid’s nose, avoid cleaning his eye goo, or keep him wrapped in a bloody shirt just so I can “see how bad it is.” If you tell me his temperature was 102.3 an hour ago, but then you gave him ibuprofen, I’m not going to think you’re lying.

5.) With that it mind, it is helpful if you tell the truth.

Not just because your words steer my medical decision making. (You never let your child have sugary drinks? Ever?)

Tell the truth to your pediatrician because your kid is listening, and he knows when Mommy is lying. To the doctor! Remember that part about me not questioning your parenting? I have my limits.

6.) A virus is a germ.

Me: “This looks like a viral infection.”

Misinformed Parent: “So, you’re trying to tell me there’s nothing wrong?”

Please, Thoughtful and Compassionate Parents, spread the word. A viral infection is still an infection. It does not mean there are no problems, or that your child’s symptoms are trivial.

I love annihilating bacteria as much as the next guy, but I don’t prescribe antibiotics when they’re not going to do anything. The great news about most common viruses is that your child’s immune system can take them down, without any help from me.

7.) I really believe in the recommended vaccines. And I don’t profit from them.

Unless you consider the well-being we get from seeing fewer severe illnesses and fewer dying babies, pediatricians do not get paid for pushing vaccines. In fact, vaccines are expensive to stock, store, and administer, so offering them sometimes results in a cash loss for pediatric practices.

Speaking of vaccines, did you know there are lots of vaccines that we don’t give your children? Only vaccines that are exceptionally safe and exceptionally necessary get recommended by pediatricians. Which means, unless you’ve dedicated your career to researching this area (in which case I bet you already got your kid vaccinated), it seems silly not to trust the scores of scientists who have.

Please consider it a compliment if I forget your name. Your children have been blessed with good health. -Dr. McGee #pediatrician

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8.) Please consider it a compliment if I forget your name.

Really, it’s a good thing. Not only have your children been blessed with good health, you are doing everything right. I don’t need to worry about you. You listen to my advice. Your kids get better. Thoughtful, compassionate parents? Yes, you are.

And I wish I could hang out and chat. But I’ve got somebody waiting.

Consider it a compliment if I forget your name

  • Thanks for explaining how a viral infection is still an infection and should not be ignored. My son has had a fever for the past two days, and it’s only getting worse. I will find a pediatrician as soon as I can so that my son can get checked out and taken care of properly.

  • I think that all kids should get the recommended vaccines. That way, they have a better chance of not getting those certain diseases or spreading it. I’ll have to see if my kid is up to date on his shots.

  • I didn’t realize that only vaccines that are exceptionally safe and necessary get recommended by pediatricians. Neither of my children have received any vaccines, and I really need to fix that. When looking for a pediatrician, I’ll make sure that they can provide my children with the vaccines that they need.

  • Dr. McGee was my daughter’s pediatrician and we miss her so much… I have no words.

    Dr. McGee you were a such comfort to me when, as a brand new mother, I was holding my sick and crying baby in my arms. I was so afraid the doctor was going to blow me off and tell me that “babies cry”. But you didn’t. i quote you all the time to new moms… “You’re her mom. You know her and you know what you’re doing.” You were so right!

  • Thanks Kerry! Great read!

    I chuckled about the please tell the truth bit, but I also cringed at the potential serious impact it can have.

    You’re totally right that not only is lying in front of your kids a bad lesson, but doing it to a doctor is even worse. When we do we lie to avoid the judgment of the person who you purposely went through the trouble of coming to see so that you could get their judgment. It’s actually a bit crazy and a terrible lesson that can only harm your kiddo in the long run by potentially preventing them from getting the care they may need because when it’s just them in the room they may follow your lead and give an inaccurate description to a doctor that leads to an incorrect diagnosis (it also could be bad in the short term since they are at the doctor for a reason which is presumably to get a diagnosis based at least partially on whatever the parents are telling the doctor).

    I certainly have done things as a parent to avoid the judgment of other adults that I look back and regret, and I’m sure I’ve done it with doctors too. Thanks for highlighting this issue! Painful truth and all going forward!


    • Word. 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and share. This article, and your comments, have certainly made me take a closer look at exactly how far I’ll go to avoid judgement.

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