If there is one person we don’t want our child to have to deal with too often, it’s the doctor… and it makes it so much more important for that reason, that when needed, the doctor is the gentlest, most attentive and reassuring person in the world. Dr Ishita is one such example! As a recently qualified GP who has experience in paediatric A&E too, she has cared for many little and big kids. In her free time, she loves animals, crafts, and the many kids in her life.
1. The most pressing question for a doctor. How do you make kids feel comfortable when you’re seeing them as a patient? Can their grown ups help prepare them to go to the doctors?
How comfortable kids are depends in large part in how they have been prepared for what is going to happen. It is important for parents to have a little (age-appropriate) conversation with the child first to say, for example, “we’re going to see the doctor about this pain you’ve been having”. And the overarching thing is to reassure them right, so saying things like, “this is what’s going to happen, the doctor will talk to us mostly, and then they might have a feel of your tummy, or listen to something, or touch your foot, and I’ll be there the whole time”. Even that level of conversation helps a lot so the child has some sort of signpost.
In terms of making them feel comfortable when I see them, I make sure that I make every child, no matter what age, feel that they are my patient, not the parent. For example, I’ll always say hello to the child first, and ask them “who have you brought with you?”. And then the child feels at the centre straight away and it often means they’re more forthcoming with their answers to my questions. Sometimes parents aren’t able to describe what’s been happening as well, so that gives the child the green light to talk to me.
When it comes to examining children, I am always sure to explain what I'm about to do as I go, and that it won’t hurt. It would be very rare that in a GP setting, an examination would be painful. Important thing is to stay at their level, make some jokes, and keep mum and dad assured - because children are very quick to pick up on that as a sense of if the appointment is going well.
2. In the hospital you might see kids when they’re very poorly. How do you deal with that?
In the hospital I have seen kids that are very poorly - to be honest medical school has trained me to deal with sick patients of all ages, and as you go through your training, right from the start you see things that shock you and remind you of your mortality and humanity.
It takes a few months - depending on your personality and circumstances - to adapt - to the extent that you continue to feel it, but not so much that it’s harmful, or gets in the way of your working. Once you do that, empathy becomes easier. Having said all that, it can still be very hard with kids, because sometimes they can’t even talk yet, and they are so dependent on their guardians.
I guess if there are times when it has been hard to deal with it, at least in the hospital it is very much a team effort, so someone else can step in and provide that continuity, and there is no clinical pause, while I can take a minute to chat to my supervisor or have a cup of tea with a nurse, before returning to the child.
What’s the funniest thing a kid has done when you’re seeing them as a patient?
I don’t know! Kids make me laugh all the time, I'm struggling to think of one incident. Something that does stick in my mind from when I started off, doing an A&E rotation and I was set to examine a six-month-old baby, with chesty, bronchitis-like symptoms. At the time I was so new to examining babies so I was really concentrating, really focused on listening to this baby’s chest. The baby was really good, and well but just noisy breathing and things. He was sitting up and I was intently trying to listen close up to his chest. I looked up just in time to see him drop the biggest stream of drool right over my hands - which required a thorough washing afterwards! His mum just laughed - I guess I should have seen it coming!
4. What’s some general health advice more kids should have?
I find myself telling kids time and time again to drink more water! Kids are really bad at drinking water because their thirst drive just isn’t there, they can cope really well with thirst, but even at a low level of dehydration it’s not good. Especially when sniffly, it’s so important to drink water - or squash or something, but just get your fluids - throughout the day!
5. What’s your favourite thing about being an aunty?
I don’t even know how many things to list! Every time I think of one of these kids I go into my happy place! I guess, it’s just a really privileged position, because you’re already somebody that mummy or daddy trusts, so I get to experience so much of a kid’s life that other people do not get - the happy times, the sad ones, though hopefully not too many of them. I really enjoy being able to make them smile! So many things!
They say it takes a village to raise a child. All the big and small inputs different grown ups have in a child’s life - from grandparents to playgroup leaders to the lady at the checkout - shape how kids grow up to see the world. Who makes up this village is different from family to family, and even child to child. What the people in this ‘village’ offer and model to the kids in their lives is more diverse still. This series shines a light on the different kinds of people that make up the villages around us!