I have spent 15 years working in General Practice as a Practice Nurse, and I have seen firsthand the positive impact that can come from a good relationship between a Patient and the Practice Team. One thing that I have noticed is that what we need from a General practice Team can change with each life stage. This is especially true when we move into parenthood. During my Parent/Caregiver First Aid courses I talk about the importance of finding a good General Practice that suits your needs as a Parent vs your needs before children. I want to share my insights on this today. The below is not an exhaustive list but it gets your search off to a great start
Whilst a GP is a medical expert, you are the expert on your child. That means you need to work together. A great relationship with a GP and their Practice Team is like a fine wine, whilst it can be good at the start, when you let it develop it can become great! The same GP will not suit everyone (thankfully as you would never be able to see them!). Every GP has their own personality and consulting style. It is important to find one that you feel comfortable talking to because you are more likely to develop a trusting relationship with them. Remember that may not be the first GP that you see. This is no reflection on their skill level, we all communicate with different styles and perhaps their style did not resonate with you. A good tip when searching for a GP is to ask your friends if they have any recommendations.
Don’t forget that your GP does not work in isolation. Other vital parts of the team are the Administration and Nursing teams. Together they all create the culture and atmosphere of the Practice. Make sure it’s one that you feel comfortable with as a whole.
Once you have found a GP that you feel comfortable with, wherever possible, commit to their Practice. Consistently using one practice develops a medical history at that Practice and a trusting relationship between the GP, you and your children. Whilst there are exceptions, visiting one Practice helps you and your child feel more comfortable in that environment which promotes both confidence and trust. Over the years I have seen many children excited by the thought of coming to see me and blow some bubbles… oh and maybe have an immunisation or a splinter removed…. But they remember the bubbles for next time. A sick or injured child is much more likely to let us examine them or treat something that hurts when they are in a familiar environment and know us.
Repeat visits also allows the GP not just treat the issue you have seen them for, but also discuss age preventative care with you that can pick up issues early enough to treat. Remember if you are unable to see your GP because it is an urgent appointment, seeing other GP’s within the Practice is a great option and will maintain the consistency. They will also have access to your medical history. It is important not to wait for “your” GP if your child is sick.
Ease of appointments and access
Before children, our need for appointments and the times that worked best for us were very different. Usually they were routine things like repeat prescription that could be planned, it usually suited us to have the appointments before or after work. Some of us even preferred GPs who don’t run an appointment system, but a “turn up and wait” system.
For the majority this is not ideal for a young family. I can tell you turning up and waiting with young children for immunisations IS NOT fun, neither is not being able to get an appointment with a GP or a practice that you trust when you have a sick child.
I changed surgeries when my son was just under a year old. My original practice did not have a system that allowed emergency or same day appointments when needed. Who plans being sick? I found myself using “stand in” clinics that had a come and wait system out of necessity. That meant all the different Dr’s that I saw took longer to piece together things like how often my son had had tonsillitis and all the individual allergy symptoms he was showing on different occasions. I had to piece together his medical history for them each time and the value of consistency was lost.
When I looked for a new Surgery to suit my new family, top of my priorities was a practice that had a system allowing them to offer Patients same day appointments for urgent issues. Often this was appointments saved for the day or a duty Dr who was dedicated to see the urgent same day problems. By booking an appointment time, rather than just turning up, my time waiting with small children was minimised as much as possible and medical history was maintained. With this change it was amazing how quickly my son was referred for a tonsillectomy and his allergies were diagnosed and managed and most importantly how my stress levels reduced!
Bonus points for:
- Access to the Practice Nurse: An experienced Practice Nurse has a wealth of health information. They are a great go to for health education and promotion. Make sure you can access their valuable input into the health of your family by appointment and (for urgent enquiries) over the phone.
- Location and parking: this is important for some, not for others. I think with small children and busy lives, whilst it isn’t the most important consideration, it does need to be thrown into the mix. If you are no longer working in town… a GP in town does not make a lot of sense.
- Having a high functioning Practice Team: This means exactly that… they work together as a team. They all have their own area of expertise that is respected and together this improves their input into your family’s health.
This is just one small topic I talk about in my Parent First Aid courses but I believe it is an important one.
Once you have found “your Practice” you will know it. You will understand their system and can confidently call for an appointment. You will feel comfortable with the Dr and their team. You will come away feeling listened to. You will trust the advice and actions taken. When you feel comfortable you will communicate this comfort in many unconscious ways to your child, they will then feel comfortable. This will allow the Practice team to do their job to the best of their ability. Getting to this point may take a few visits, but it is well worth finding your practice with a young family. This hopefully will become a longstanding relationship that just gets better with time. I still think of “My GP” as the one I grew up with as a child. If you don’t feel you have found your family GP, it’s time to get talking to your friends and find them.
”This article was written for information and education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read in this article.”
Karyn is an Adelaide based, Registered Nurse and Trainer with 18+ years of experience dealing with the medical and first aid needs of both adults and children. She is also a Mother and has firsthand experience dealing with Asthma and Allergies/Anaphylaxis on a daily basis. These roles enable Karyn to both appreciate the first aid challenges that a Parent/Caregiver can face, and understand the importance of quality first aid training in the community. Visit her website at www.head2toefirstaid.com.au