My husband recently accompanied me to a doctor’s appointment and a few minutes into the visit I realized that it was pointless for him to be there. As is typical, once a medical provider realizes that I am a physician (which sometimes they learn from my chart, sometimes from my social history, and sometimes I giveaway with my jargon), the conversation shifts from colloquial to collegial. The words are changed to the shorthand that physicians use to communicate with each other– vomit becomes emesis, red becomes erythematous, and runny nose becomes rhinorrhea. After years of living with me throughout my medical training, he’s been schooled in some of this jargon already, but when seeing a medical specialist, the medical semantics are elevated and even I find it harder to keep up.
While the doctor and I went back-and-forth with an academic discussion that I found fascinating, I saw my husband yawning and wished that he could participate more. After all, that’s part of the reason I brought him along! In retrospect, I should have advocated for his inclusion, but I shouldn’t have had to ask.
When my patients have medical professionals as parents, I need to remind myself to fight the urge to switch into the language of physicians. Speaking this way confers a different tone than a doctor should use with a patient and may change the doctor-patient relationship, potentially inhibiting them from asking questions for fear of revealing their own unfamiliarity with pediatrics. Even if the parents are fellow pediatricians, taking care of ones own child is MUCH different that taking care of patients. As a parent, our medical knowledge can become fuzzy when trying to apply it to our own children, which is why it helps to have someone else making the medical decisions about your children. Therefore, in my office I try to treat all parents, even my professional colleagues, as parents first.