March 16, 2020, was the day we changed the way we have been practicing pediatrics for the last 20 years. We had never imagined this would happen - and certainly not like this. We are the only pediatrics practice in Georgetown, a small town in rural Delaware. We strongly believe in childhood vaccinations and want to make sure our office is safe for our patients. So based on guidelines from AAP, we were able to divide our office into two halves - one half would see only sick patients and one would see well checks, with separate entrances and exits. We removed chairs from the waiting room and put up a big sign in English and Spanish telling patients to call us from their cars. We locked our patient entrances. Our staff took all histories by phone, minimizing the time spent in the exam room with patients. We screened all parents and patients with temperature checks and COVID-19 questions. We stopped seeing patients without appointments. Since our town is a hot spot, we decided to assume that every patient we see could have COVID-19 even if they are coming in for a well check. We decided to wear full PPE in all visits whether the patient is sick or well. We make sure all parents are wearing masks too. We will give them one if they don't have it. The toughest part has been not being able to smile, laugh or talk with little kids due to the PPE. Our patients and their parents are used to seeing doctors in gowns and masks in the hospital and ER, but this was all new to them. We are very happy that a majority of our patients 2 and under are showing up for their well checks. We have seen a lot of sick children testing positive for COVID-19, but luckily they are all doing well. Our patients have adapted to these changes well and appreciate what we are doing for the community.
Pediatricians are also front-line heroes. They play an important role in ensuring herd immunity by vaccinations. *The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
About the Author Vibha Sanwal, MD, FAAP, is co-owner of Rainbow Pediatrics with her practice partner and husband Dr. Pankaj Sanwal. Their practice is located in a rural county in southern Delaware.
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