Tips for Caregivers
Family Matters - Summer 2009
Help Your Next Clinic Visit Run More Smoothly
Any time parents must bring their child to the Robin Bush Child and Adolescent Clinic for a doctor’s appointment or treatment, a number of factors can influence the flow of their day and their overall clinic experience.
Some of these factors are out of the control of caregivers, but there are ways to help make a child’s visit run more smoothly by taking a few proactive measures.
With the input of parents and nurses, the Children’s Cancer Hospital has a few recommendations to enhance the patient experience at the clinic
1. Arrive on time – It’s important to arrive on time for your scheduled appointment. Although you may have a wait time, arriving late will not only delay your schedule further, but it will also affect the schedules of other patients who have appointments that day. If you are running late, please call the clinic desk at 713-792-6611 to let your health care team know.
2. Consider an early blood draw – Due to the large volume of blood samples that are processed daily at M. D. Anderson (especially in the mornings), the Children’s Cancer Hospital often is delayed in receiving results that are vital for doctors to make decisions about treatment. The Children’s Cancer Hospital and the Family Advisory Council recently created some options to help bypass the long waits for results the morning of a patient’s appointment.
- Have your blood drawn in the outpatient clinic the day before your appointment. Afternoons between 2 – 4:30 p.m. are the best times to come in, and a $5 parking voucher will be given to those who come for blood draws the day before appointments.
- Have your blood drawn at the Rotary House the evening before your appointment between 6 – 8 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. You can register at the Patient Guest Relations Office on the first floor of the Rotary House. These blood draws are done by accessing the vein directly (usually in the forearm). Central line catheters (Ports, broviacs, etc.) cannot be accessed for pediatric patients by lab staff.
- Have your blood drawn at Bay Area Medical Oncology Labs (18100 St. Johns Drive, Nassau Bay, TX) the day before your appointment from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday. Results are available quickly and entered into the patient’s medical record. No appointment is needed. Like the Rotary House draws, central line catheters cannot be accessed for pediatric patients by lab staff.
3. Put on the EMLA or L-Max cream before leaving home – If your child is having a port accessed or blood drawn and normally uses the EMLA or L-Max cream to numb the skin, make sure you put the cream on your child before you head to the clinic. This will give the cream enough time to set in, and it will help avoid procedure delays once you arrive at the clinic.
4. Bring the essentials – Wait times can be longer than expected. Come prepared with snacks for your child or any other essentials, such as diapers, formula and items for special dietary needs.
5. Bring “comfort” items – Visits to the hospital can mean anxiety for a child. Pack items such as a favorite toy, stuffed animal or blanket that will make the child feel more comfortable. Also, if you have books, coloring pads, a portable DVD player or mp3 player, bring those as well. These can help distract your child during the wait time. Some parents have used these accessories to occupy a child’s attention while the parent talks to the doctor in the exam room. If you bring any portable electronics, throw in a pair of earphones to help keep the noise at a desirable level in the waiting area.
6. Bring a notepad and pen – During the doctor’s appointment, you will receive essential information regarding your child’s treatment and progress against his/her cancer. Take a notepad or an audio recorder to document the information to have for later use. Some parents bring another family member or friend to be in charge of taking notes. Also, use this notepad to keep track of your child’s reactions to treatment and write down questions for your doctor to bring to your exam visit.
7. Prohibit food and drink intake before procedures – When your child is scheduled for a bone marrow aspiration, spinal tap or any scan with sedation, do not let the child have any food or drink the day the procedure is scheduled. This will only result in the procedure having to be rescheduled. Remember to bring a snack, though, to give to your child once the procedure is over. If you have any questions regarding fasting before procedures, please ask your health care team.
8. Leave the front desk or nurse with contact information – If you must leave the clinic waiting area for any reason, leave the front desk assistant or your nurse with a way of reaching you, such as a cell phone number (in addition to the M. D. Anderson pager you may receive). This way someone can reach you quickly if you are needed back at the clinic.
9. Be aware of children sensitive to food in the clinic – If you bring food to the waiting area, please be considerate of patients who may be sensitive to food smells or other strong odors due to their chemotherapy causing nausea. This also applies for children fasting before a procedure.
10. Don’t hesitate to ask questions – You are a vital member of your child’s health care team, and you play an important role in enhancing your child’s experience at the hospital. If you are unsure about your upcoming schedule, or don’t know where to find a location for an appointment or have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Your health care team, child life specialists and other staff in the clinic are there to partner with you to help make your day go as smoothly as possible.
In This Issue
Tips for Caregivers: Help Your Next Clinic Visit Run More Smoothly
A Survivor's Story: Garrett and Gatlin Stringer
Behind the Scene: Andrea Hayes-Jordan
A Patient's Voice: Emily Garcia
Medical Matters: Pediatric Research Spotlighted at National Conference
Helping Hands: Fighting Cancer One Toga Party at a Time
Family-Centered Care: We Need Your Input
Art Corner: Children's Art Project Brings Special Canine Guests for a Visit
What's New: Check out a list of upcoming events with the Children's Cancer Hospital
Support for You: Summer Programs Bring Fun Memories for Patients and Siblings