Phone Tips for Families

At The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, we know much of the important, day-to-day interaction between families and the healthcare team happens by phone — whether it is to make an appointment, get information or report a change in your child’s status. Experienced families on our Family Advisory Council offer these tips for effective communication on the phone.

Before you call:

  • Get paper and pencil ready. Write down your questions and important information: your child’s diagnosis, doctor, most recent weight, medicines your child is taking right now, the name and phone number of your pharmacy. You will be asked to verify the patient’s name and date of birth.
  • If your child is sick, write down: How your child is feeling and changes in his condition. Is there a fever? What have you tried to help your child feel better?
  • Unblock any phone “call blocking” in case you need a call back; if using your cell phone, make sure you can receive calls.

Making/taking the call:

  • Say who you are, your child’s name, whom you want to talk to, and why you are calling.
  • If English is not your preferred language ask the staff to arrange for an over-the-phone interpreter.
  • Give your phone number and write down the name and phone number of the person helping you, in case you get disconnected.
  • If you feel you need extra support or more information: have a family member or friend who knows your child listen in on the call; ask the staff to explain further; or request written information.
  • Repeat to the staff what you understand and ask, “Do I have it right?” If the information is unclear, ask, “Can you explain that in a different way?”
  • Once you and the staff agree on what is happening, you can talk about next steps. Share your ideas on what works best for your child and family.
  • Check that you understand the next steps and agree with them. Find out when you should follow up and with whom.
  • Before ending the call, make sure all your questions are answered. Ask for the name and phone number of whom to call if you have other questions later.

After the call:

  • Read your notes and write down what you need to do next.
  • Put appointments and dates to call back on your calendar.
  • Keep phone numbers near the phone or in your cell phone address book.
August 2014