A registrar survival guide... toddler surgeries

The 30-second rule
A former GP trainer told me a doctor has about 30 seconds to bond with a child in a consultation. Achieve this with immediate eye contact, a broad smile and a welcoming 'Hello' in soothing tones plus keep a distracting, brightly coloured toy nearby.

Ensure eye level
Make sure the child is at a similar eye level to you and their mum. Whether you kneel down or the child sits on the desk, it gives them a sense of equality.

Involve the child
Never underestimate how much a child can understand. Directing the toddler's consultation at the mother will alienate the child. Mums won't mind being ignored as long as the child stays happy.

Allow them to play
Allowing them to touch or hold equipment, such as your stethoscope or tongue depressors, while you chat to Mum (as well as the child) gives a relaxed air and puts the child at ease.

Save the worst till last
ENT and respiratory examinations comprise the majority of consultations in toddlers. Leaving the throat until last is a good idea - kids hate tongue depressors and will likely wail when one is shoved in their direction.

Cast the safety net
Be warned that parents are sometimes unhappy when leaving without a prescription. For this reason, it's very important to safety-net for toddlers by setting a realistic time scale for re-attendance should the problem fail to resolve.

Dr Barney Tinsley is a salaried GP in Bradford

 Essentials checklist

  • A quick bonding technique.
  • A bright, cuddly toy.
  • Child-friendly equipment.
  • Realistic time scales for resolution.


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