Yesterday, we took the kidlet to her new orthodontist. We had been referred from her dentist and this was going to be the first discussion about the kid needing braces. She had a bit of nervousness about the whole process and wasn’t feeling all that great. She was also concerned that there would be pain involved. But, as I explained, this was just a chance for us to hear what was ahead and hopefully be able to ask any questions we might have. Plus she could meet the people at the clinic who she would be seeing regularly. And I also reminded her several times that if she didn’t feel comfortable with what she saw and who we met, we could go elsewhere.
The second we walked in, I knew that we would be staying with this clinic. The first thing we noticed on the wall was a white board which said ‘Welcome to today’s new patients’ and we spotted our kid’s first name up there with a few other names. The kidlet felt pretty good about that!
We walked to the front desk, and a lovely woman smiled at us all and turned her attention straight to the kidlet, saying hello and welcoming her to the clinic and introducing herself. She made eye contact the whole time with the kid before turning to hand me a clipboard. ‘Would you mind filling this in please? And, if it’s okay with you,’ she said turning back to the eleven year old, ’I’d like to show you around.’
The two of them went on a little tour of the practise and I heard them chatting away, the kidlet asking questions as each different space was introduced. When the kid returned to us in the waiting room, she was holding a clipboard of her own. ‘I need to fill this in,’ she said, and took great care answering questions about her likes and dislikes and interesting things about herself.
A short while later, the dental nurse came into the waiting room and, again, went straight to the kid. ‘Hi, I’m K,’ she said holding out her hand. ‘Is this mum and dad?’ She asked turning to us.
‘Now, I need to take some photos – just in that room over there. The room is tiny – are you okay to come by yourself? Or you can bring mum or dad if you’d like.’ The kidlet jumped up and smiled, clearly very pleased at being asked directly what she wanted. ‘I’ll be fine,’ she said.
The rest of the appointment continued the same way. When we were shown into the treatment room, K explained exactly what would happen once the orthodontist entered the room. The orthodontist welcomed the kidlet first and then introduced herself to us. The kidlet was asked regularly if she had any questions and anything she did ask was answered efficiently and clearly. She was congratulated on asking smart questions (mostly different versions of ‘is it going to hurt’) and no one tried to rush through things or to dismiss any of our questions.
The practical side of things – i.e how we would need a second mortgage to afford the treatment – was explained clearly to the grown-ups in the room and the ‘rewards’ system (a points program which earned gift vouchers) was explained to the kid. She looked delighted!
We left the clinic feeling very well informed. All our questions had been answered and we knew exactly what was going to happen next. The kidlet felt really positive about the whole experience too.
This is ‘patient-centred’ care at its best. It’s not just lip-service – it was far more than the staff all being overwhelmingly lovely. They were genuinely focused on ensuring that everyone knew what was going on and that the kid understood that this was all about her. She was given options – each of them explained to her – and then we were asked to think about them and make decisions, with the option of being able to ask further questions if needed.
So what does this level of care and attention take? It certainly took no more time that would be expected of a first consultation. There were no more staff members involved than at any other clinic offering the same service.
But what it did take is care and attention and an understanding of the ‘customer’. And respect. A lot of respect.