June 4, 2018

Tips for a smooth visit to the pediatrician

by Tips for a smooth visit to the pediatrician

With a little planning, parents can make visits to the doctor go more smoothly for their kids.


As a pediatrician, I’ve learned that a visit to the doctor’s office can be a stressful event for parents and their children. We know medical procedures such as shots can be scary and painful. With a little preparation and planning, your visit can be a helpful, nurturing and educational experience for you and your child.

1. Prepare your child for the visit before you arrive.

Let her know generally what to expect. Reading stories about going to the doctor or playing with a “doctor kit” at home will take some of the mystery out of the visit.

2. Don’t promise “no shots.”

If your child asks about shots, tell her with confidence that a shot is important medicine that helps her stay strong and healthy. If she needs a specific answer about vaccinations, it’s best to say, “I don’t know, we’ll see when we get there.” There may be vaccinations you are not aware of, and we don’t want your child to think you are breaking a promise. If a child has been told by parents that she is not getting shots but we find they are needed, I generally say something along the lines of, “Your mom didn’t know, but today you DO need a shot.”

3. Write down your questions and bring a list to the visit.

Tell us your concerns early in the visit so we can prioritize and cover the most important topics.

4. Arrive at the pediatrician’s office 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment time.

An early arrival allows time for the check-in process including completion of forms and providing insurance information. Be sure to bring your insurance card and your child’s immunization record to each visit.

5. Allow plenty of time for the visit.

There’s a lot more to the visit than your face-to-face time with your doctor. For example, well visits include taking measurements such as height, weight and blood pressure, as well as checking vision and hearing. It takes time to work with each child to obtain accurate measurements. Nurses will review questions with you before the doctor enters your room. We may have health screening or developmental questionnaires for you to complete, and we’ll review these during your visit. Administering vaccinations takes extra time as well. After the physician examines your child, we’ll prepare some paperwork with recommendations for you to take home.

Throughout the whole process, try to have a positive attitude about the experience for your child. Your confidence and positive attitude go a long way to helping your child handle the process and recover quickly.


Dr. Rachel Lenox Mace is a general pediatrician with the University Pediatrics practice at Vanderbilt Health at One Hundred Oaks.  She is the mother of 3 and enjoys cooking and reading.

Infants, Early Childhood, Middle Childhood

8 thoughts on “Tips for a smooth visit to the pediatrician”

  1. Jay says:

    Getting your child for shots and medical should really be a priority. Helping your kids understand that it is good for them to go is really important. Do you have any more tips for a child who is scared?

    1. Maura Ammenheuser says:

      Jay, it’s always a good idea to call the pediatrician’s office in advance and ask them how you can best prepare your child for getting shots, and what the office staff may do (or not do) to help. One thing that helped my school-aged children feel in control was bringing their own ice pack to the visit. They felt they could numb their own arm before and after the shot. Also, another counterintuitive tip that might help with younger children: Give them permission — in fact, encourage them — to give one really loud yell, as loud as they can, when they get the shot — but not before. (Maybe warn the nurse in advance that you’re trying this.) This may acknowledge their fear, encourage expression and give them a bit of control.

  2. Hector Uba says:

    Thanks for the tips on having a smooth visit to the pediatrician’s office. I never thought about having some doctor instruments at home to make them more friendly to your children. I’d imagine that the more they see these tools, the more comfortable they will become with them.

    1. Maura Ammenheuser says:

      You’re welcome. We’re glad this is helpful for you and your children.

  3. Sarah Smith says:

    Your information that I need to get to a pediatrician’s office early and bring my insurance card and my son’s immunization record is really helpful. I didn’t realize that the check-in process could sometimes take 15 minutes. With this in mind, I will schedule an appointment with a pediatrician that allows for traffic delays.

  4. Silas Knight says:

    It’s good to know how to take my son to the pediatrician. We need to find a doctor in our new area first, but once we do, I’ll need to take him for a check up. I’ll be sure to play with a doctor kit at home so he doesn’t worry about it, like you said. That’s a great idea!

  5. Dean Phillips says:

    I really enjoyed your advice about explaining to your child the importance of medical shots and how they will make them strong and healthy. I have a 4-year-old daughter who is terrified of needles and would not be willing to go to a doctor’s appointment if she thought she would get a shot. Putting the benefits of shots into simple terms would make her more willing to visit a doctor’s office.

    1. Maura Ammenheuser says:

      We can sympathize with this challenge — no child likes shots. You might want to call the doctor’s office in advance, find out if she’ll need a shot on this visit, and ask how they handle administering shots to young children. A 4-year-old will not be consoled by an explanation of the benefits of the shot. Two things that helped my own kids cope with shots (somewhat): bringing an ice pack from home so they could help numb their own arm — it gave them a bit of control. And telling them that when they feel the shot, yell as loud as they can! (You might want to warn the staff about that one.) Of course, some kind of treat as a reward after the scary experience is always nice. Good luck.

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