Playing games is the best way to communicate with young patients and arrive at a diagnosis when the patient might not be able to tell you how he or she feels, a pediatrician said.
Showing reporters his toy collection, Tien Chiung-hsi (田炯璽), a doctor at the Tri-Service General Office in Taipei, said that a toy penguin that can walk and jump is a favorite of his young patients.
“Playing is the most important thing for children,” Tien said, adding that a child who lacks interest in play is usually unwell.
Seeing a doctor might be frightening for children, but Tien has developed a bedside manner that has made him a good playmate and friend to his young patients.
“Helping a child recover from illness and be able to laugh and play again is the biggest achievement for me,” Tien said.
Tien said he was born prematurely and only weighed about 1,900g at birth, but his father, a soldier, spent more than 30 percent of his monthly paycheck for Tien’s healthcare.
Because of this, Tien made up his mind while still in junior high school that he wanted to become a doctor. Tien said he learned how to get along with children from his mother, a kindergarten teacher, because he had to help her take care of younger children after school every day.
However, Tien’s skills lie not only in his experience with children, but also in his ability to provide child-rearing advice to parents.
“I always tell the parents of my patients that making sure their children sleep and eat well is a far better cure than any medication I can prescribe,” Tien said.
One grateful mother, surnamed Hung, said that “unlike other doctors, Tien explains everything and gives detailed information about how to treat my son, who suffers from allergic rhinitis.”
When treating new patients, Tien takes the time to get to know them and to communicate with the parents. His staff — the nurses and health educators — are also prepared to work overtime if necessary.
While some doctors in Taiwan rush through patients at their clinic, Tien, who called himself the “slowest doctor,” said he sometimes only has time to see 10 patients during his 6pm to 11:30pm evening clinic.
Long considered one of the less lucrative branches of medicine, pediatrics attracts fewer new doctors, with many preferring to specialize in dermatology and cosmetic surgery, which offer shorter working hours and better remuneration.
However, Tien said that he believes that all doctors are supposed to respond to the call and mission of saving lives.
When there is conflict between turning a profit and a patient’s health, people have to stand up and challenge the system.
They need to remind hospital owners that compromises need to be made in order to create a situation beneficial for all, he said.
“Although most people in Taiwan expect doctors to offer quick and flexible service, I prefer to spend more time to find out their needs. I see myself not only as a doctor, but also as a health promoter,” he said.
“Helping sick children and their families gain health and reducing the frequency of their hospital visits have always been my goal,” Tien said.