Meeting a Family for the First Time

When you are meeting a new family, always introduce yourself properly and clarify your role in the clinic. For example: "I am Julie Smith, a medical student working in the pediatric clinic this month."


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Cultural Differences:

Be sensitive to the fact that life-styles, dietary habits, and the approach to illness may be different in families of different ethnicity and cultural backgrounds. Do not assume that your outlook is necessarily shared by the child's family.

If you have a question about a cultural practice with which you are unfamiliar and it relates to the medical care of the patient, please respectfully ask about the cultural practice from a perspective of curiosity, taking care not to come across as judgmental.   This helps to better understand family practices and build rapport. If you don't ask, you might miss some important medical information.

Alternative or Complementary Medicine:

Such therapies are most likely to be used for chronic disease. Ask about this with sensitivity; families will not often volunteer this information. After you take the history of previous medical therapy, a general question such as, "Is there anything else that you have tried for this condition?" may be helpful in eliciting these details.

Respect the parent's status by using proper titles, "Mr. Smith", "Mrs. Jones", "Dr. Doe". Identify language barriers and use a certified translator when needed. The need for a translator can be anticipated by looking on the top dashboard for "preferred language" and "translator needed: yes/no." The child's siblings should not translate.

As a beginning student, if time and the parent permits, it is a good idea to practice taking a complete history on every patient, even if the patient is not new to the practice. This will help you learn.