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How to deal with parents of a sick or injured child

When treating their child, parents can be your greatest asset and also can be a considerable hindrance

Pediatric patients are almost always accompanied by at least one parent or caregiver and many times there are multiple people — of all ages — present. Parents can be your greatest asset and also can be a considerable hindrance if not managed properly.

These are my tips s for engaging, involving, and managing parents as you assess, treat, and transport their child.

1. Always talk to and interact with the child.
I focus my eyes and body on the child. As I talk to the child, I glance at mom or dad to make sure they are listening and understand. I will even use some body language to ask if they also understand.

2. Give very specific directions about how they can help.
If I need mom to soothe the child, I give her specific techniques to soothe a child in pain. If I need dad to get the car seat I tell him the specific steps to complete the task.

3. Brief them on upcoming actions.
If you are preparing the child for transport make sure you begin to explain that action well before you are carrying the child out the door.

4. Ask “What questions do you have?”
By asking an open ended question you guarantee being asked at least one question. Encourage additional questions.

5. Affirm that calling for help was the right thing to do.
Many parents are concerned about doing the right thing for their child. Affirm their decision to call for help with a simple statement like, “Thanks for calling us. You did the right thing to call.”

What about if they really didn’t need 911? Don’t lecture or sneer. Instead use this as an opportunity to educate and inform. You might say something like, “These are symptoms your child is having an emergency. If you see any of those symptoms in the future call 911. If you are in doubt call your primary care provider. If you are unable to reach your primary care provider, call 911.”

What are your tips for communicating with parents while treating their child? Tell us in the member comments below.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on Twitter or LinkedIn and submit an article idea or ask questions with this form.

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