Jan Gambino Jan Gambino's Blog

Accessing Medical Care: One Traveler’s Approach

During the busy summer travel season, I am reminded that planning a vacation is very similar to the way I approach accessing medical care. When I am planning a vacation, I begin by reading books and searching the web for information. I compare the pros and cons of booking a flight or a hotel room based on cost, location and feedback from other travelers. I might ask a friend or neighbor for information about their travel experiences. When I am seeking medical care for my kids, I take the same approach.


When the doctors diagnosed my daughter with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and Asthma, I went right to the library and the web and read all of the information I could find. I consulted other parents on the web who had been on my journey and returned with valuable information and feedback. Just like planning a trip to a new country or culture, I had a lot to learn.

Learning the Lingo

I wanted to know the local customs and terminology. There were big words to learn such as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and abbreviations such as GERD. In New York City, the underground rail is called the subway. If you travel to Boston it is called “The T” and London, “The Tube”. You can see how important it is to know the lingo!

Meeting the Locals

I wanted to know the type of travelers I might meet so I would know what to expect. I had to figure out all of the new and unfamiliar people I would meet along the way: nurses, radiologists, specialists and more.

Four Star Ratings

Don’t you like to stay in the hotel with four stars? I sure do. It means the staff will be attentive, the accommodations will be comfortable and I can relax and enjoy my stay. I also like to take my kids to the hospital with the highest rating for care and patient satisfaction. Knowing the staff of the hospital cares about my family and has been rated highly is important to me.


When traveling to new and exotic destinations, I am more than willing to sample the local cuisine. However, I still need to start each and every day with a cup of strong coffee. So whether I am waking up at the beach house or the pediatric floor, I need to have a few basic amenities. If you are going to an unfamiliar hospital, the hospital website may offer information on directions, services and local businesses to make your stay more comfortable.
A while ago, a reflux mom was taking her son to a far away hospital for a pH probe. I was able to give her important insider information from a previous visit: Starbuck’s in the lobby, balloons in the gift shop and red wagons so you can take your little guy to the courtyard. She reported back to me that the nurse gave her permission to take her son for a wagon ride to the lobby. They returned to the floor with ear to ear grins: mom with a cup of coffee and her son with a new balloon!

I always ask if there is a Child Life Specialist or as my daughter calls her, “The Play Lady”. Often a Child Life Specialist is assigned to an outpatient clinic area or pediatric patient floor to help children and families cope with hospitalization. This can take the form of boredom reducers (DVD’s and game boxes) and stress reducers (special play techniques to help children discuss their fears about medical care).

Have a good trip!

While going to the hospital isn’t nearly as carefree and enjoyable as a vacation, it is an adventure into a new world. Whether you are a family member of a patient or a patient, I encourage you to plan ahead and do your own research to find the best medical care possible. Do not overlook the importance of a highly rated hospital and the services that will make your stay at least tolerable if not comfortable. In the end, I hope you have a good trip.


Check with your
doctor first!