Guest column: transitioning your child from pediatrician to family physician

Most people agree the transitions from childhood to teenage years to adulthood can be challenging for all family members. Knowing when a child should change from seeing a pediatrician to a family/adult physician is one of many decisions that requires several considerations, such as specific health challenges, conditions or illnesses; healthcare coverage; rights and privacy, and how these legal items change with an individual’s age; and living at home or moving away for college.

From parents’ perspective, their offspring will always be children, regardless of age. To a teenager, however, he or she is growing up and a visit to the baby doctor may no longer acceptable. Or, many teenagers and young adults want to continue seeing their pediatrician and don’t want a new doctor.

Transition is a process. Managing the transition from pediatrician to a family/adult physician should be carefully thought out and discussed between parents, child and pediatrician to ensure a positive experience for everyone.

It is important for adolescents and young adults to realize this first important step toward taking charge of their own healthcare comes with new responsibilities. The key to a successful transition is for parents to empower their adolescent by allowing them to learn about and understand their health and create a sense of health responsibility.

Young people can start co-managing their healthcare to prepare them for being fully responsible as adults. Teens can be encouraged to take an active role by starting to schedule their own appointments and refill their prescriptions. This builds self-confidence and gives parents a sense of relief knowing their children can be successful taking care of themselves.

Another way to start making the transition is for teens to meet alone with their doctor for part of the visit. It is important they learn to talk privately and become comfortable asking questions about their own health.

If a child has a rare condition, disability or pediatric-onset condition, it may be challenging to find an adult physician or adult specialist knowledgeable and comfortable caring for these complex needs. In this case, it is important to start searching for a new doctor during the teen years.

Whenever the decision is made, transitioning from pediatric to adult care is a process. The pediatricians and family medicine physicians at North Country HealthCare are committed to making the process and transition as easy and seamless as possible. That’s why all our pediatricians provide care for young adults until they reach the age of 25. We understand that the determining factor to go from pediatrician to family physician should not be based on age alone. Our physicians and providers help with the coordination of care, referral to other providers and all the logistics associated with the transition. 

Brandon Abbott is a board-certified pediatric and internal medicine physician. He is an enthusiastic, young physician with a broad skill set and avidity to lifelong learning, teaching and innovation. Abbott joined North Country HealthCare in 2015 after training with the organization as a medical student through a partnership with A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona.

North Country HealthCare is the only publicly supported community health center in the region and provides accessible, affordable, comprehensive, quality healthcare in an atmosphere of respect, dignity and cultural sensitivity. The health and well-being of patients and community alike are promoted through direct services, training and education, outreach and advocacy. Established in 1991 by a group of local healthcare providers and volunteers to care for the uninsured, North Country HealthCare is now a federally qualified health center with 23 sites in 14 communities throughout northern Arizona.

More information on the locations, programs and services is available by calling (928) 522-9400 or visiting northcountryhealthcare.org.

By Brandon Abbott

Doctor of osteopathic medicine

NorthCountry Health Care

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