December 2000 Bulletin

Match your style to age of child patient

Suckers and soft tone voice for toddlers; older child can be examined as an adult

Communicating with children can be challenging for most nonpediatric orthopaedists.

"It really is a special encounter when you’re dealing with children," explains James H. Beaty, MD, president of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America and professor of orthopaedics at the University of Tennessee and Campbell Clinic. "That’s because toddlers or pre-school age children cannot articulate their condition and they’re also afraid of white coats. With children, you have to communicate with their parents, grandparents and/or other caregivers. Whereas with adults, you’re dealing with the adult one-on-one, rather than with a group of people."

For example, a child who is limping might be too young to give an orthopaedist a history, notes Dr. Beaty. "Sometimes the child can’t even tell you where he or she hurts," he says. "Or the child may or may not have pain, can’t tell you where the pain is and what are the symptoms."

Here are some tips from Dr. Beaty to help you communicate more effectively with toddlers on up to teenagers.

Toddlers

Exam

History

Diagnosis/treatment

Ages 4-12

Exam

History

Diagnosis/treatment

Ages 13 on up

Exam

History

Diagnosis/treatment

"Although some of this might sound like common sense, it’s amazing that if you go through the same process with toddlers as you do with adults, the visit might be difficult," stresses Dr. Beaty. "So adapt the visit to their age and your style."

Successful physician-communicators tell what they do and a consultant offers helpful tips on how to "rate" with your patients. See Communicate.

Communicate welcomes suggestions about future topics for the column on patient-physician communications. Send your suggestions to the Bulletin at AAOS, 6300 N. River Rd., Rosemont, Ill. 60018.


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