We asked Sara C. Largen, MD, pediatrician at Ascension St. Vincent’s in Jacksonville, Florida to help us understand what to expect at your child’s appointments and when you may want to go to the emergency room instead. Pediatricians are your trusted partner to discuss what is on your mind as a parent and to help make healthcare decisions for your children.
What happens at each pediatrician’s visit?
There is more than one type of appointment when you come to see your pediatrician. There are sick visits and well visits. At sick visits, your pediatrician will address your concerns related to an illness or another acute concern. For a well visit, your pediatrician will evaluate your child’s physical health, growth and development. At either appointment, parents play a critical role in the visit and should come with questions and concerns ready to be discussed.
At a well visit your child's height and weight and other measurements will be recorded. You'll be asked, of course, if you have any questions or concerns. This is a good time to talk with your child’s pediatrician about any new symptoms or health concerns. Ask all of your questions -- big and small.
One of the main components to a well visit is discussing and evaluating the growth and development of the child. This can be done in various ways, but often involves questionnaire forms which help us to assess your child’s development. If your child is due for vaccinations, your provider will then discuss them with you and come up with a plan as far as vaccinating your child. After your physical exam, where their doctor checks to see how your child's heart and lungs are sounding among other things, you should be provided a physical form as well as a vaccination record. These are required by a lot of daycares and schools for entry.
At a sick visit your child will be coming in for a concern. Those concerns can range from cough and cold symptoms to mood or academic concerns. During the appointment, the topic of discussion is usually centered around those specific concerns. We ask you, or your child, what symptoms they're having and get an idea of when the symptoms may have started. We'll do a focused physical exam. For instance, if your child's ears are hurting, your pediatrician will look in your ears. We also listen to you and provide advice, whether that would be care at home, an over-the-counter treatment or a prescription.
Many parents and guardians come to their child’s well visit with concerns or questions regarding vaccinations. Your pediatrician should not be a cause of stress for you when it comes to vaccinating your child. Our job is to help you understand what the vaccines are for, potential side effects of the vaccines and to address any concerns or questions you may have. It should be a low pressure discussion; you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable coming to your pediatrician with those questions. Your pediatrician should be a valuable resource when it comes to making decisions about vaccinating your child.
When to go to the ER
Going to the emergency room can be very stressful for many families. Oftentimes, your pediatrician can handle some of your concerns in their office in a more familiar environment and in much less time. There are many instances where a trip to the emergency room may be needed. Common reasons to be seen in the emergency room would be for things such as broken bones, stitches, difficulty breathing, etc. If you are ever unsure about when to take your child to the emergency room, you may want to consider calling your pediatrician for advice.
If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, go directly to the ER or call 911.
Find a doctor who listens
Ascension Medical Group St. Vincent’s Pediatrics answers your questions big and small. By knowing you and your child well, your child’s pediatric care team can deliver personalized care that fits your child’s physical and emotional health needs. Your doctor can help your child stay well by finding health problems early when they are most treatable. To find a pediatrician near you visit ascension.org/doctors.
Dr. Largen is a board certified pediatrician at Ascension Medical Group St. Vincent’s Pediatrics in Jacksonville Beach and provides primary care for infants, children and teens.