Connecting with Pediatrician When Living in a Foreign Country
Few things are as nerve-wracking as worrying about your child’s health. Expats know this well. In addition to the usual parental concerns, they also face the stress of connecting with a pediatrician abroad. Sometimes it’s easier said than done, especially when language barriers are involved. But before you get overwhelmed, know that the process is very similar to what you’ve experienced at home. There are just a few things you have to tweak to account for your expat lifestyle. You’ve got this!
Do Your Research
Just like at home, finding a doctor abroad from recommendations by friends and colleagues are invaluable. If their suggested practitioners are accepting new patients, look into their location, hours of operation, and after-hours care plan. This is especially important. Pediatric aliments never seem to arise during normal business hours, especially when you’re living overseas!
Requirements for medical school and pediatric residencies differs around the world. While you shouldn’t turn down a wonderful, experienced doctor just because they are a general practitioner instead of a pediatric specialist, you should verify that they are indeed certified in their respective fields.
Take Advantage of Free Meet and Greets
Most pediatricians offer short, no-cost consultations for new patients. However, even if you have to pay for their time, it’s money well spent. It’s important that you get along well. And it’s reassuring that their office is a clean, welcoming, orderly environment. Show up early so you can see the waiting room and the support staff in action.
Ponder Language Skills in a Doctor
There are many levels of bilingualism. A physician who speaks English in the operating room might not be as skilled in casual conversation with children. Meanwhile, a parent who feels confident that they’ve mastered conversational Russian, Thai, or Spanish might be surprised to learn that medical terminology is beyond their capability. But don’t be dismayed! Good communication is paramount but you shouldn’t discount an excellent doctor just because you’re both struggling with each other’s accent. You’ll both improve over time and a trusted friend can act as a translator in the meantime.
Be Aware of Cultural Differences
Topics like breastfeeding, circumcision, preventative care, mental health, learning disabilities, and menstruation may be interpreted very differently in your new country than they would at home. Expat parents might struggle between trusting their pediatrician’s knowledge while still feeling the need to do their own independent research. However, if your pediatrician is experienced serving expat parents, they should be open to a broad discussion on sensitive topics. Subscribing to parenting magazines from your old home and the new one will shed some light on how different cultures address these topics.
Learn About Their Network
Who covers the pediatrician on their day off? Do they have a team member who offers house calls? Are they part of a clinic system which includes specialists – especially handy when those persistent ear infections flare up! Who is responsible for administering routine vaccines? Is it them or a member of their team such as a nurse. A pediatrician is just one member of a healthcare team and it’s important to get a sense of how things work.
Don’t Be Shy About Billing
Sometimes small bills can add up very quickly! You want to understand how their billing system works and how you will be reimbursed by your insurance company. Some pediatric offices have direct billing programs while others will permit 30 day invoicing or flexible terms.
Finally, Ask Your Child!
What did they like and dislike about their previous pediatrician at home? Some children might be too young to articulate this, but you might be surprised by what you learn. Their comfort in a medical office is paramount. It makes for smooth appointments and confident diagnoses. The availability of toys, child-friendly decor, and complimentary stickers might rank high on your child’s list of must-haves. Or not at all! Your child might express a strong preference for a doctor who is the same gender as them or prefer an office that isn’t too loud and crowded. Don’t be afraid to ask them to weigh in!