Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Stick to it

I learned to draw silly faces while in boring classes. I remember doodling endlessly in certain classes to pass the time. I would say that I was paying attention, but the fact is, I never did all that good in these boring classes. Fortunately, I was able to overcome my doodling and get into medical school.

To my delight, I found that this odd talent could be very useful in pediatric practice. I now put young children at ease by drawing a silly face on a tongue depressor and making it kiss them on the nose. This usually gets a smile and gives them something to play with. Some kids have kept these sticks for months after I gave them one. Others ask for different faces on both sides of both ends (I am not talented enough to draw 4 different pictures like this, but I do my best).

Much of pediatrics is about creating comfort. There are some children who scream no matter what you do. There was a period of time where I took care of several of these children who went to my church. The problem was that they would scream loudly whenever they saw me, even in church. This was somewhat annoying for me and very embarrassing for the parents. Most children, however are capable of being drawn in if you are creative enough.

For almost as long as I have practiced, I have had a Scooby Doo sticker on my stethoscope. This is a lot of fun for kids, making them less scared of this otherwise medically intimidating object. I have Scooby kiss their back and chest while I am auscultating their lungs and heart. This at least gets me a few seconds. Since I am also an internist, it is interesting to see the reaction from the older segment of my patient population. I have yet to hear complaints about it, but I doubt they would complain about it to me. I am who I am, however. I am not a formal guy (I posted earlier about wearing sandals), foregoing the tie and white coat for the more casual look. If patients don't like it, they can find another doctor. I have 5000+ who do like it, so I am satisfied.

Stickers are especially important. I am fanatical about having good stickers in the office. For boys, having Spider Man (more popular than Batman and Superman), Hot Wheels, and some sort of heavy construction equipment stickers is a must. For girls, Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake, and Dora the Explorer stickers are equally important. A mini-crisis ensues if we are without these. For the 6-8 year old boys, I like to hand them a Barbie sticker and see their reaction. They treat it like it is coated with Ebola virus or radioactivity. The parents get a good laugh.

I often find that the younger children are more comfortable if you give them a sticker before starting your exam. Getting a gift can improve the visit considerably. I am also fond of tickling children. I have said that pediatrics is one of the only professions where you can tickle someone without being arrested. You have to pick and choose who you tickle, but doing so has gotten me labelled by some children as the "tickle doctor" (others have called me "doctor macaroni" for the fact that I find it in their ears).

The bottom line is that I like the kids to see the experience as enjoyable and even fun. I know that this is not always possible. Cleaning out ears and giving shots can greatly dampen my public relations efforts. Some children are not ever charmed. But it is the laughter and smiles that makes pediatrics so enjoyable for me, and such a nice contrast to my internal medicine practice.

We do not EVER give Precious Moments stickers
They are of the Devil!