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Each time you take your child to the pediatrician, you meet a team of people who help with the visit and work with your pediatrician to provide the best possible care.
The Office Team
When you enter the pediatric clinic, the first team members you will encounter are the front desk staff. Front desk staff members will ask for your child’s name and birth date, let the clinic team know you have arrived, and inform you about any clinic delays. Sometimes front desk staff will ask you or your child to complete questionnaires. After your visit, a front desk staff member will print clinic visit summaries and help schedule follow-up appointments.
Medical assistants, sometimes called MAs for short, are typically the people who call your child’s name in the waiting room and show you to a clinic room. They may check your child’s hearing, vision, height, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate. They will also ask about your main concerns for the visit and review your child’s allergies and medications.
Nurses are able to provide guidance on concerns you may have about your child’s daily routine or development. During a health supervision visit, a nurse may discuss your child’s care with you and offer advice about supporting your child’s development and keeping your child safe and healthy. Nurses are often the frontline clinicians you talk with when you call the clinic with a question.
The Learner Team
In many clinics, trainees and learners are an important part of the team. During your clinic visit, you may encounter different students in medical training, including medical students, nurse practitioner students, and physician assistant students. The student may ask you and your child questions about their health history, examine your child, and help in discussing medical recommendations. Students are closely supervised by a physician or other licensed medical health care professional and cannot make medical decisions on their own.
Residents are physicians who have recently completed 4 years of medical school. During residency, newly graduated physicians learn to take care of patients in their medical field of choice, including pediatrics or family medicine. Residents may ask patients and families questions about health histories, perform physical examinations, order medical testing, and discuss medical care with families. They may make medical decisions independently, but they receive close guidance and instruction from a supervising physician.
What Parents Can Do
If you are asked to include a trainee in your child’s medical care, consider the benefits of being involved in medical education, which may include getting additional input on your child’s health and contributing to the future profession of pediatric medicine. You can also consider potential downsides, including that the visit could take longer with additional health care professionals involved. Make the most of your experiences with your health care team by knowing who is on your team and their role. If you are unsure, ask.
Published Online: July 29, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.2303
Correction: This article was corrected on October 14, 2019, to fix wording in the Figure.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.
Babal J, Moreno MA. The Pediatric Clinic Team. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(9):900. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.2303
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