When working with sick children, tensions and emotions naturally tend to run high for both parents and health providers. Parents are striving to advocate on behalf of their child as best they can, while physicians and nurses caring for the child are striving to provide the best and timeliest care possible.
Under stressful and sometimes urgent or emergent conditions, it is easy for both sides to misunderstand one another. Being a new mom myself, with two children under the age of 2 (18 months and 3 months), has given me a new perspective and a greater appreciation for what the parents of my patients are experiencing on the other side of the image I am interpreting. While the innocence and vulnerability of the pediatric patient population is something that affects anyone working in pediatric medicine, myself included, the gut-wrenching empathy and sadness that I experience when interpreting studies on patients who are not doing well, or the complete elation and relief when a study is negative, is something that has increased with the birth of my two children. Whereas before I could only sympathize with the sheer terror a parent must be experiencing while in the ER in the middle of the night with their sick child, I can now whole-heartedly empathize with their situation and in doing so provide better care and support for my patients and their families. I myself have agonized over a fever of 102 and have struggled with whether or not I should bring my child to the ER for the giant bump on her forehead after she had jumped off a chair.
Being a parent has also helped me to understand children much better and has allowed me to witness the things they can do in the blink of an eye, even when you are staring right at them. This is something I’d like to think gives me an advantage when interpreting their studies–an advantage I’ve never had before. On the flip side, my patients also teach me a lot about my own children and what to expect from them. In turn I believe this makes me a better parent.
So thank you to my children, Bianca and Jack, for making me a better doctor and to the children and families of Cincinnati Children’s for making me a better mother.
Contributed by Dr. Hollie West and and edited by Tony Dandino, (SPEC-MR QUALITY).
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