Working in pediatric healthcare settings is filled with challenges and triumphs. Those who enjoy working with children get to make them laugh, build long-lasting rapports, help guide them, heal them, provide them with life-saving medications and procedures, and watch them grow up. However, this also means you will have the unfortunate task of delivering bad news and seeing your young patients at some of their moments in life.
According to UCLA Health, some of the most prominent challenges facing pediatric healthcare workers are solving medical mysteries, family/caregiver management, and dealing with the emotional trauma of your patients and any trauma caused by caring for your patients in general. Either way, working with young patients is not to be taken lightly.
As a pediatric caregiver, it’s your job to bring your best self to work each day to provide all patients with optimal care. With that in mind, here is a list of 6 tips to treat children more effectively.
Make Your Office Kid-Friendly
According to IDS Kids, the environment sets the tone for the child and their families. One of the best ways to treat children more effectively is to create an ambiance that is comfortable and inviting to young people. This means everything from your music and artwork to color schemes should appeal to kids. Moreover, you should also choose fun-colored scrubs and the various accessories and adornments that can be added to stethoscopes, thermometers, etc. You can also do things such as stream children’s shows or movies, play kid-friendly music, or even install video game systems.
Respect their Preferences
When it comes to dealing with smaller patients, the little things matter. No matter what age they are, all children have their own preferences. They may prefer to stand, sit, or even kneel. They may prefer to choose the color of their gown or band-aids, which arm they use to get their blood pressure, etc. No matter how small the choice may seem, you still want to offer them a chance to make it for themselves. According to CHOC News, this promotes dignity within your tiny patients and helps them feel more at ease under your care. It also helps solidify you as a caring professional who truly listens to their child patients.
Study their Culture
Kids live in a totally different world than adults do. According to World Eye Cancer Hope, Learning about their common interests will help you establish a rapport. For instance, you could ask them about popular kids’ shows or ask them to sing popular kids’ songs. Ask them about the latest toys or games, or even install a few in your office to play with as they wait. You can also take some time to learn the new lingo and phrases being used in pop culture. Being able to readily rattle off common catchphrases sends a signal to kids that you are more of a peer than an authority figure. Therefore, they will feel more seen and understood.
According to Travel Nurse Source, it’s important to empathize with the kids while sympathizing with their parents. On the one hand, showing children empathy assures them that you understand their fears and pain and, thus, will do your best to help relieve these feelings rather than contribute to them. On the other hand, sympathizing with parental concerns shows them that you understand that they also may be scared or worried about their children, and you will do your best to administer treatment while keeping pain and discomfort at a minimum.
Learn Child-Friendly Communication
Another way to treat younger patients more effectively is by learning child-friendly communication. This is because communicating with adults is vastly different than communicating with children. Kids are typically more sensitive to tonality, body language, and other aspects of communication that may not necessarily affect adults to the same degree.
According to Joyce University of Nursing & Health Science, healthcare professionals can make their communication more child-friendly by focusing on the following:
- Starting with a friendly introduction: The first thing you can do to facilitate fruitful interactions between you and your young patients is to introduce yourself. For instance, a child-friendly way to introduce yourself to a patient would be, “Hi, Paige! My name is Doctor Smith. Blue is my favorite color, so I’m wearing blue scrubs. I see you have a lot of pink on. Is that your favorite color?” Many children will immediately warm up to you because you are being friendly while engaging them and their interests.
- Learning their names: Children are warned of stranger danger but often respond more fondly when someone addresses them by name. Taking the time to understand their names and how to pronounce them correctly can be an excellent way to build an instant rapport with your patients.
- Speak face-to-face: To kids, doctors are just big people who check their health and sometimes poke and prod them with needles and other equipment. This is why you must be aware of your body language when interacting with your tiny patients; standing and talking at them has a far different effect than kneeling down and looking them in the eyes. Also, according to Toddler Talk, eye contact with young kids encourages toddlers to speak back to you. This is because they often learn how to talk by imitating the mouth movements of others.
- Remember to smile: When working with kids, the little things matter. Showing up with a big, bright smile is one of the best ways to set the tone.
- Be candid and positive: Unfortunately, some tests and procedures cause children pain. It may be tempting to mislead them to get the job done. However, doing so only breeds mistrust. Be as honest as possible about everything, but also do it in a positive and upbeat way. For instance, instead of saying, “This is going to hurt,” try saying, “This is a shot to prevent you from getting a painful infection. You’re going to feel a quick pinch, but it will keep you safe and protected for years.”
- Ask parents for help: Most kids follow their parents’ lead. If the child seems especially standoffish, you can ask the parent for help. For instance, they may hold them while you do parts of the examination.
Just because you’re in a medical setting doesn’t mean you must be boring. Kids love to laugh, joke, and play. Finding ways to have more fun is a surefire way to build long-lasting rapport with patients who will always be eager and happy to see you. Depending on the patient’s age, you can make the visit more fun by playing peekaboo, singing songs with them, asking them for high fives, doing the latest dances, etc. All kids have their own personalities, and being more playful will allow them to truly open up and be themselves.