Imagine if harried parents could get the scientific and clinical expertise of a pediatrician just by walking only a few steps next door. That’s the premise of a new podcast, The Pediatrician Next Door, by Dr. Wendy Hunter, M.D. She brings decades of experience in emergency and primary pediatric care to answer burning questions that parents are reluctant to ask.
“In the emergency room, I saw a great many frustrated parents and their kids who didn’t always get their questions answered by their pediatrician because there just wasn’t time in the clinic,” said Dr. Hunter. “Or, they didn’t have access to their primary care doctor, so they felt the ER was their only option.
“The Pediatrician Next Door gives me a forum to answer questions directly from parents in depth and explain what’s going on with their kids’ health. It also lets me give, in an entertaining way, an insider’s view of what’s happening behind the scenes in the clinic and their doctors’ thought processes.”
Dr. Hunter said the podcast aims to give parents confidence as well as information on especially worrisome symptoms. “For example, we see babies with the same exact series of symptoms all the time. They’re spitting up, they’re crying constantly, they have a rash, their belly is bloated, and they can’t poop. Parents may think their kids are ‘broken,’ but we know they just have a normal baby. In the podcast, I can talk about those issues and explain them in depth, in a way that will reassure parents.
“I want to be this big reference resource that a parent can access to get enough information that they can make good decisions on their own, and with confidence.”
One problem Dr. Hunter seeks to help solve is that, in the pressure of the clinic, distracted parents may not really hear what their pediatrician is telling them.
“One mom called and said her six-month-old was running a fever after being vaccinated, and she was just freaking out,” said Dr. Hunter. “In our earlier clinic visit, I had told her to expect a fever, but she was distracted by her kids and didn’t hear my advice. However, in a podcast, you can really get a parent’s attention.”
In particular, Dr. Hunter is looking for what she calls “doorknob moments” that can be critical to answering parents’ most burning questions. “Sometimes, when a clinic visit is finished, we go to the door, and we put our hand on the doorknob, but we stand there a little while. Parents may take that pause to really get down to what’s on their mind. Those are the questions I want to explore on The Pediatrician Next Door.”
She also hopes to counter the misinformation on the internet—the source pediatricians wryly dub “Dr. Google.”
“Social media bombards parents with advice that’s just not accurate or realistic. For example, some online expert will tell a parent to calmly stop and spend time talking to a toddler who’s laying on the floor screaming in Target, when all the parent wants to do is check out. I want to give that parent practical advice on dealing with such situations.”
The Pediatrician Next Door will also offer a safe space for the sensitive issues that parents may not want to bring up in the clinic. “Is there alcoholism in the family? Does the child feel like their parents love them? Does the parent hit the child? Does the parent call the child names? These are all questions I want to offer a forum to address,” said Dr. Hunter.
The podcast will also offer a community platform that gives parents a reassuring perspective on their problems. “Let’s say your seven-year-old still wets the bed, and you’re really worried. Your doctor may tell you that it’s okay. But you still feel like your child is the only one with the problem because you’re not about to talk to other parents about it. But The Pediatrician Next Door is a public forum that can give really powerful reassurances.”
Parents may submit a question to Dr. Hunter on her blog https://babyscience.info/. The Pediatrician Next Door can be heard on all major platforms.