Talking to Your Dermatologist

As a parent, you want to ensure that your child is given prompt, good-quality health care; this includes looking after their skin. At times, talking to a paediatrician or dermatologist can be confusing, or even awkward. There are some things you can do to improve these conversations and make certain you are getting the most of their expertise. This article describes some tips to help you and your child get the best care from your dermatologist.

Before the appointment

Some people find it useful to prepare prior to the appointment. It may help to write out a list covering the following details and take it to the appointment with you.

  • The reason for your appointment and any symptoms the patient (you or your child) is experiencing.
  • Any questions or concerns you might have.
  • A brief history of related medical events from the past and how those situations were resolved – some people like to keep a health journal and many children have medical record books; this may be useful to take along. This might also include a family history of similar symptoms or conditions.
  • Current related medical conditions and treatments.
  • Current medications the patient is on, take careful note of the dosage and strength. It is also prudent to record the frequency and time of day at which medication is taken and any side-effects it causes.
  • Other aspects of your lifestyle which may be relevant, such as stress, pregnancy, vitamin supplementation, over-the counter medicines taken or skin care products used (this includes cosmetics, soaps and other products which come into contact with the skin).
  • Take along any test results where applicable.
  • Take a pen and paper to the appointment to make notes.

During the appointment

Pay close attention to what the dermatologist says and make notes of any important information you could forget. If you have a question about anything they say it is important to ASK. Ask every time you don’t understand something; it doesn’t matter how many times that is, a good doctor will be happy to take the time to explain.

Sometimes doctors, including dermatologists, can get carried away describing something that is very complex or using difficult language. If you don’t understand something it might help for you to ask them to repeat or simplify it. Don’t be embarrassed if you can’t figure out what is being said; you are not expected to have their medical knowledge and it will help them to realise they need to be more straightforward. What’s more, if you don’t speak up your dermatologist will assume you’ve understood everything he or she has told you and this could be vital to the health outcome.

Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself if you are feeling overwhelmed. So long as you are being reasonable, you need to be firm about what you want for yourself or your child, because ultimately you are the one responsible for their health.

You may have additional questions you have prepared or that arise during the consultation, make sure these are addressed before you leave the dermatologist’s office. Finally, a dermatologist can be one of the best sources of sound, trustworthy information. You can choose to take this home with you in the form of written advice from the dermatologist, your own notes or educational brochures and pamphlets.

After the appointment

It is important for the health of yourself and/or your child that you adhere to your dermatologist’s directions; whether they are to take medicine at a specified time, arrange a test or return for a follow-up visit.

Occasionally, problems or questions arise after you have left the dermatologist. In these situations it is a good idea to ring the consulting rooms and leave a message for your dermatologist or to schedule another appointment where you can talk in greater depth.

Choosing the right dermatologist

When it comes to your family’s health, choosing a good physician can make life a lot easier. Since everyone relates to different personalities and has different expectations, here are a few questions to help you to assess whether your dermatologist is right for you:

  • Did they make you comfortable and at ease?
  • Do you trust in their knowledge and confidentiality?
  • Did you leave the dermatologist feeling informed about the situation?
  • Were you satisfied with the outcome (i.e. treatment plan)?
  • Did you feel rushed or pressured into making a certain decision?
  • Were you happy with their manner?
  • Did they acknowledge and address your concerns?
  • Were you pleased with the way they dealt with you and/or your child?

If you have serious doubts about the dermatologist’s judgment, or are not satisfied with the level of care you received, it is ok to get another opinion. In the end, it’s about finding someone reliable who suits you and your family.

In return, it is your responsibility to be completely open and honest with your dermatologist. A physician cannot treat you or your child properly if they don’t have the correct information. Don’t be afraid to ask difficult or embarrassing questions. It is the job of all doctors, including dermatologists, to diagnose and treat medical conditions, so chances are they have seen it before. What’s more, these individuals have trained for many years to understand the human body, so there is no need to be shy; the things you disclose are entirely confidential.

NB: If you have a serious issue with the conduct or performance of a practitioner you should notify the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency – (Australian public only).

Reference 2010, ‘Tips for Talking to Your Doctor’, retrieved 15 August 2011,>.

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