There’s nothing harder than a preschooler. They’re stronger than they look, they’re determined, they’re very aware of their surroundings, and they will remember what happens. I was talking with a coworker about this and we shared about the same strategies to make the visits go smoother. Here are our tips– what are yours? Share in the comments!
Too many of my preschool patients walk into the waiting room and spend the entire office visit in dreaded anticipation of a shot. Sometimes all they need is a good distraction. Toys in the waiting room serve this purpose well, but that has to extend into the exam room too. Anything that takes their mind off the visit helps – a chat about their favorite TV show, engaging about their day, offering a book, singing a song together, or reciting a nursery rhyme. They love when doctors use the “I’m looking for birds in your ears!” or “Are there dinosaurs in that sore throat?” trick to get through the exam. Personally I have lots of success getting silly with nursery rhymes… “The itsy bitsy elephant went up the water spout… wait, it’s not elephant? What is it then? Oh, a spider? OK, let’s try this again…”
2. Act it out.
This one’s a no-brainer– I’m sure we’re all doing this I hope!!! It doesn’t matter if it’s on the patients’ parent or on a teddy bear, letting the patient see you work on something else helps reduce anxiety. I like to hand my stethoscope off to the patient and let her listen to my heart. I have a bear-sized blood pressure cuff that the patient can try out on the bear, plus an extra (non-plugged-in!) otoscope to look in bear’s ears.
3. Get parental help (only when needed).
It’s best to work things out directly with the patient, but if things are headed south, getting the patient on mom or dad’s lap can help immensely. I think we all know a hug from a parent is way better than trying to restrain a patient ourselves! This works in talking too – ask the patient first where their ouchie is or what’s feeling not so great. Then ask the parent for the backup info. And don’t be afraid to signal to parents ways they can help.
4. Know your audience.
The minute I started working in peds I started watching a little Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora the Explorer, and I even rented Disney’s Cars movie. My new rule is to know every character on the stickers I hand out. It makes for a great conversation starter plus builds a little trust!
What are your tips? Share them in the comments!