Parents Want to Accompany Their Children for Eye Exams
July 12, 2017
What is your office policy when parents want to stay with their children during the eye exam? How well is your staff trained to handle special situations related to this? Setting your policy for parental observers may seem pretty easy, but there are some special circumstances to consider.
Generally, my advice is to let parents (or guardians) have their way and make a special effort to accommodate them. There are a few things that are fairly sacred in our society and the well-being of children is one of them. Of course, you know you and your staff will take good care of pediatric patients, but parents can be highly protective and they may be concerned that the child will be frightened if left with strangers. Or, the parent may simply want to be part of the eye care experience. In many cases, it is beneficial for the parent to see the child struggling with some parts of the exam. This can make the treatment plan easier to accept, especially if the patient is asymptomatic.
Talk with your staff about the factors below and how they influence requests by family members to come along for the exam:
• Do you generally allow observation, but only if the parent asks? I think it is best to be more proactive than this. Parents may realize after the exam begins that they want to be involved. They may have remorse over not speaking up and that leads to resentment toward your practice.
• Age of the children. Doing an exam on a three-year-old is quite different from a child who is twelve, as are the needs of the parent.
• Are there multiple exams occurring in close proximity to each other? This is a big one that needs to be discussed in advance. If you have appointments for three kids at 3:00, 3:15, and 3:30pm, all three children will typically be seen by doctors or technicians at the same time. One may be in pretesting while the doctor is examining another. The third one may need frame selection or pupil dilation. See below for how to manage this.
• Do both parents want to be present? Some pretest or exam rooms do not have enough seating.
• Are there are other children who will be present (but not having exams)? Other children can be distracting to the child who is the patient.
Start the conversation
It is the caring little touches that build your practice reputation, so train your staff to ask parents about their preferences for observing their child’s eye exam. Ideally, this will occur over the phone when the appointment is scheduled, but should be brought up again at check-in. Staff members might mention that some parents like to come along and some prefer to let us do the exam without them. Explain that the staff takes special care with children to make the exam a pleasant experience and the doctor will speak to the parents after the exam in any case.
After hearing the parental preferences, the staff can bring up any issues, such as seeing multiple children consecutively. You can also bring up the size of some exam rooms and lack of seating. But the key is to find a way to let parents have their way and help them achieve it.
• Your staff can help a mom move from one room to another to keep an eye on multiple kids who are being seen simultaneously. Or schedule the kids far enough apart or on different days if the parent wants to be present for each one (this ends up being inconvenient for the parent, so not likely).
• Stools take up very little space inside the exam room and can be borrowed from another area, or a parent could stand. You could even have a couple of chairs in the hallway right outside the pretest or exam area. Leave the exam room door open (this is a good idea in any case).
• Mom may just want to get the child settled and then can step out.
• Be flexible. Each part of the exam only takes a few minutes; don’t make a big deal out of small requests.