How To Visit A Pediatrician In Ireland In 16 Not-So-Easy Steps

In America kids visit the pediatrician all the time. They go for “well child” exams. They go for hearing tests and vision tests. They go for regular vaccinations. Shoot, when they’re babies I think they schedule a visit every other week just for kicks and giggles. As I quickly discovered, though, that is not the case in Ireland.If you want to take your kids to the pediatrician in Ireland there are a few extra steps you’ll need to take:

Step 1: Realize that there is no such thing as a pediatrician in Ireland. Well, maybe there is, but a pediatrician only sees rare and extreme cases of childhood ailments. Google “childhood doctors in (your city)” and discover that there is, instead, such a thing as a GP (a General Practitioner). Make an appointment with a GP.

Step 2: Visit the GP and realize that he is not who you want to see either. All he does is give vaccines to babies and prescribe medicine if you’re sick. Go home confused. How will I ever know what percentile my baby is in? Who will make sure my kids are developing properly? Who will pat me on the back and tell me I’m a fantastic parent?

Step 3: 7 months later, discover that there is something called a Public Health Nurse. This is the person who actually weighs and measures and checks for hearing and vision.

Step 4: Call to schedule an appointment with the Public Health Nurse (PHN). After 4 phone calls, realize that each PHN covers a specific region and you may only make an appointment with the PHN assigned to where you live. Call your PHN and leave a message because they do not answer the phone, they only return phone calls the next business day between 9:30 and 10:30 AM. Wait by your phone between 9:30-10:30 AM the next day to make sure you don’t miss your call; otherwise you’ll have to call back, leave another message, and wait for your call to be returned the next morning. Get the phone call, make your appointment (for the first available spot, 2 months from now), and get directions to the clinic.

Step 5: On the morning of your appointment, drive out to the clinic. Realize that the lack of an actual address and the directions you got were too vague to actually find the building: “on Beach Street (the streets don’t have published names, so that doesn’t help) before the “Y” in the road to Monkstown (you don’t know where Monkstown is, or which direction of the “Y” leads to this place) with a railing in front (every building has a railing in front of it)”.

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Step 6: Park your car on what you hope is Beach Street, get the kids out of the car, and stare blankly at all of the buildings with railings on (what you presume to be) Beach Street. Start knocking on every door of every building with a railing in front of it. Thank the person who eventually opens the door for you and ask her if she knows where the Public Health Nurse’s office is. Take her advice that it is 2 doors past the pink fence and start walking up the street.

Step 7:  Get to an ordinary-looking house that is apparently a public health center and let yourself in.

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Go to the back of the house/public health center and sit in a room with a bunch of other people who look like they may be waiting to see a nurse. There is no receptionist or sign on any of the doors, so you hope you’re in the right place. See one of those bead maze thingys that they always have at doctor’s offices and assume you have found some sort of clinic anyway.

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Step 8: Wait. You are now 15 minutes late, but there is nobody to check in with to let them know you have arrived (at least, you think you have arrived at the correct place).

Step 9: After another 15 minutes (half an hour after your scheduled appointment time) a woman will enter the building and say, “Is anyone waiting for the Public Health Nurse? I’ve just arrived”. Stand up and follow her into her exam room.

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Step 10: The nurse will begin to weigh and measure your children. Then she will realize (since she was at least half an hour late showing up to work) that she left all of the necessary paperwork and exam tools in another room. She will leave mid-exam and not return for 15 minutes. Try to occupy the children with all of the nurse’s paperwork that she left out on the desk.

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Step 11: Expect your older child to be a rampant terror while his baby brother is attempting to perform cognitive tests. Have baby watch crazy older brother instead of paying a bit of attention to the nurse who is attempting to test his brain development. Hope the nurse doesn’t diagnose baby with ADD or some sort of distractibility disorder.

Step 12: After making it through the exams, ask the nurse a question. Her answer will be to talk to a man in another office in the building who is holding clinic hours today, and would you mind just going back to the waiting room to wait a turn to speak with him.

Step 13: Go back to the waiting room. Sit for 20 minutes with two tired, cranky children. Feed them lollipops to quiet them up, even though you just swore to the Public Health Nurse that your childrens’ nutrition was your top priority.

Step 14: Get your turn to ask the other doctor your question. Go into his office and ask your question. His answer will be, “I don’t know, but you can look it up on our website.”

Step 15: Leave the health center. Go to a playground down the road to blow off some steam.

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Step 16: Conclude that from now on you will just visit WebMD.com and buy a scale and a tape measure to measure your kids at home.

A Dozen Ingenious Ways To Entertain Your Kids At the Doctor’s Office

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I recently took Jacob to the doctor for his “well baby” check up and, as always, we had quite a wait for the doctor. It never ceases to amaze me that, even with an appointment, we can spend up to an hour waiting to actually do the checking-up that we are there for (which, by the way, only takes about 5 minutes of the doc’s time). With two kids under the age of 3, one hour of waiting can seem like an eternity. I’ve come up with a few ideas that help the time go a bit faster:

1. Blow up a (clean) exam glove and tie it off at the wrist. Use this as a balloon/ball/chew toy. For a little extra fun, you can fill it with water instead of air to make a squishy water balloon (it feels really neat! Just don’t let your kids chew on this one, please…).

2. Get a wooden tongue depressor and a paper cup from the exam room (they’re usually in plain view, so I consider them fair game for the taking). Poke the tongue depressor through the bottom of the cup–the cup can move up and down the stick, which is apparently quite entertaining to 9-month old babies.

3. Bring crayons and color on the paper exam table covering. There are lots of fun activities that you can do here:

  • Bring toy cars. Use the crayons you brought along to draw roads on the exam table for your cars to drive on.
  • If your kids are a bit older, you can play games like tic-tac-toe or hangman.
  • Trace your child’s body and let him color in his features, clothes, etc.
  • Draw shapes, letters, animals, etc. and have your child try to guess what you’re drawing before you finish it.
  • You (or your child) can objects that you find in the room (the bottom of a paper cup, your wallet, his shoe, etc.). Have your child decorate the shapes.
  • Draw 2 or 3 sketches of common objects and have your child make up a story that involves all of the drawn objects. Or, work together to come up with a sentence that uses all of the objects. If you have a reader, have him help you write the sentence below the pictures.

4. Read books.

5. Play with Play-Doh.

6. Bring a Ziploc bag of Legos and build something together.

7. Play doctor–this is even more fun if you are the patient and your child is the doctor

8. Eat a snack.

9. Have a scavenger hunt using the charts hanging on the walls: Who can find a picture of a hand? Who can find the letter E? Who can find a smiling baby?

10. Wad up some paper towels and have a “snowball” fight (lay out some ground rules first for this one or it may get a bit out of hand!).

11. Fill the sink or a paper cup with some water and play “sink or float”. Take turns putting small objects in the water (a cotton ball, a crayon, a paperclip, a penny). Guess if the object will sink or float, then put it in the water to see what happens.

12. And, if all else fails, hand over your iPhone and let them watch Blue’s Clues 🙂