She's only 6 years old but Sydney Skistad already knows that you don't have to get sick to visit the doctor. Sometimes you go to get shots so you won't get sick. Sometimes you go just to make sure you're really as well as you're feeling.
That's why Sydney, a bright-eyed heartbreaker in the making, visited Dr. Bruce Herman's office at KVH Family Medicine - Ellensburg for a check up this fall. "It was good," she says."He checked my heart. He checked my ears. He checked down my throat - it tickled. He checked everything to make sure it was good. Everything was good!"
"Then I got a sticker," Sydney says, flashing a smile as her 3-year-old sister Charlotte - decked out as Rapunzel - dances through the living room of the Skistad home.
Dr. Herman and his staff, as it happens, are no strangers to stickers. Debra Perry, who has spent 27 of her 37 years as a registered nurse at KVH Family Medicine - Ellensburg, has handed out plenty of them. "In our practice alone we use about 1,200 stickers per year, one sticker per shot and a sticker for each child after visits," she says.
Kids get the exams and the stickers. Perry gets the joy of working with the kids and their families. "Kids teach me something new every time I interact with them and with the people they love," she says. "I love their honesty. Because I've been at the clinic as long as I have it's been an incredible ride watching them grow up."
Dr. Herman says well child care begins in the hospital with a newborn exam, hearing screening, screening for genetic diseases and immunization planning. Regular office visits soon follow, the first just a few days after birth, the next a week or so later. Then come exams at two, four, six and sometimes nine months followed by exams at fifteen and twenty-four months. Barring problems, visits are annual after that.
The aim is to follow the infant's growth and development, catching significant problems as early as possible. Regular well child exams can reveal a wide range of conditions from delays in growth or development to undescended testicles, hernias and hip dislocations or other problems. Along the way, Herman and his staff provide support and guidance for new parents on issues ranging from immunizations to preventing illness.
Denee Skistad, Sydney and Charlotte's mother, as adept at wielding a thermometer or tackling an upset tummy or earache as any mom, understands why parents sometimes find it difficult to make a well child checkup a priority. But even when a child isn't sick there's a certain assurance that comes from a well child checkup, she says.
"It's tempting not to go because there's no immediate problem," Skistad says. "But it's an opportunity for the doctor to check a child's health for things that aren't always obvious. "It's knowing that there's not something there that you're missing or you can't see. It really is about peace of mind."