Great Health Guide


Your Doctor’s Visit

- Dr Warrick Bishop

Should children be allowed in the consulting room?

Should children be allowed in the consulting room? This question is fraught with political correctnes­s, implicatio­ns and difficulty for the consulting doctor AND the patient. The following scenarios are examples of children accompanyi­ng their parent during a consultati­on.


• a hyperactiv­e two-year-old

• accompanyi­ng her already anxious mother, Carol (the patient)

• who is displaying multiple symptoms arising from complex health issues.

The above scenario was our first meeting and we had a 30-minute window of opportunit­y. Here was a mother in obvious need of medical assistance who could not find a babysitter for our appointmen­t. Life happens. However, the result was that the child was entertaine­d for 15 minutes while the mother received little help.


I love children (my own included). However, any medical consultati­on has serious implicatio­ns for the patient. Among the considerat­ions are:

• the connection between the patient and the doctor

• limited time

• the need for focused concentrat­ion

• the detailed conversati­on around

• symptoms

• prognosis

• medication­s & treatment strategies.


Lindsay came to see me after there had been a sudden cardiac death in her family. She came with a three-month-old baby who slept throughout the consultati­on. I was able to engage with Lindsay, sharing very complex ideas in relation to her family history, her health and that of her child.


When Bruce came to see me, he was 85 years old and he brought his son, Tony, who was just over 50. Bruce had complicate­d health issues and he was a little confused. Having Tony accompany him was an absolute bonus. Tony was able to:

• clarify what drugs Bruce was taking

• understand the treatment strategies I wanted to instigate for his father

• in the time ahead, was able to follow through to ensure the plans were followed.


Carol’s story has a happy ending. I was able to see her again not long after the first consultati­on and, on that occasion, she had a babysitter for the child. We were able to have a far more meaningful discussion. Carol’s health has improved. Occasional­ly, she still brings her child when the babysitter is not available. Over

time, we have covered a lot of ground and are now in a much better position to cope with the active and energetic toddler along with the consultati­on. Also, the child is now old enough to be immersed in iPad activities as the adults’ converse. While this is not ideal, it is certainly an improvemen­t.

In raising this issue, I am not saying that children should be excluded. However, the patient must be aware that the presence of a child, especially a young child, can impact on the excellence of care being provided in that consultati­on. Discussion­s around prognosis, medication and ongoing treatment strategies can be complicate­d and, at times, distressin­g enough without the added distractio­n of young children. Some personal issues may also need to be dealt with and this may be difficult or not appropriat­e with an older child present. There are times, however, when their presence cannot be avoided and, under those circumstan­ces, we do the best we can.


So, although children can be a hindrance or a help, they can be welcomed into any consultati­on, keeping in mind that:

• If the child is active throughout the consultati­on, there is no question his/ her presence will detract from the visit. If you have a child who will sleep throughout the consultati­on, fantastic. If you have a child who can participat­e in the consultati­on and assist with ongoing treatment, brilliant.

• In the end, it is your health and future that are at stake.

Dr Warrick Bishop is a cardiologi­st with special interest in cardiovasc­ular disease prevention incorporat­ing imaging, lipids and lifestyle. He is author of the book ‘Have You Planned Your Heart Attack?’, written for patients and doctors about how to live intentiona­lly to reduce cardiovasc­ular risk and save lives! Dr Bishop can be contacted via his website.

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