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Facilitating Relationships With Pediatricians

By Jaime L. Benson, Cheyenne Hughes, Jocelyn Helwig, & Edward S. Shapiro

General Strategies

  • Understand the differences underlying approaches to assessment, treatment, and service delivery.
  • Have mutual respect for the expertise and constraints of each system.
  • Be brief. Develop 3–5 critical questions to ask physicians and summarize school concerns or results from psychoeducational reports into 3–5 brief summary statements.
  • Build relationships with local pediatricians and clinic staff, including nurse practitioners and nurses.
  • Meet with community health providers to educate them about the school-based prereferral process and to discuss simple communication devices that may help collaboration.
  • Have simple communication tools readily accessible in physician and school offices.
  • Empower parents as advocates for effective communication.

Essentials in Communicating With Physicians

  • When attempting to obtain information from physicians
    • Have a specific idea of what information you are attempting to obtain
    • Develop three to four direct questions for the physician. Appropriate questions may include:
      • What is the impact of the condition and/or medication on the child’s school functioning?
      • What behaviors and/or side effects should the school personnel be aware of and when should we contact you?
      • What information do you need from the school?
      • What is the best way to communicate with you in the future (phone, e-mail, fax, etc.)?
  • When attempting to share information with physicians
    • Information should be factual rather than opinion or judgment
    • Lengthy findings should be formatted into three bulleted pieces of key information
    • All information provided should be necessary for the physician to know when treating the student.
      This may include:
      • Conclusions of evaluations, including diagnosis, IQ range, and academic achievement range
      • Information regarding the specifics of the concerns, such as severity of the problem
      • General strategies the school has previously implemented, such as a classroom behavior plan or individual academic instruction
      • How the school would like the physician to intervene

Jaime L. Benson, Cheyenne Hughes, and Jocelyn Helwig are all fourth-year doctoral students and trainees in the Lehigh University Pediatric School Psychology leadership training project.
Edward S. Shapiro, PhD, NCSP, is Professor of School Psychology and Director, Center for Promoting Research to Practice at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA. He is also a coprincipal investigator of the Pediatric School Psychology Leadership training project from the U.S. Department of Education (Grant #H325D0670008).