Mom on a tablet while her baby sleeps on her chest

Rules Of Engagement When Googling

Author: Sarah Pope
Published Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2018

To Google or not to Google? That is the question.

Late one Friday afternoon, I was handed a piece of paper with medical terminology that referred to a genetic diagnosis I did not understand.

On the piece of paper was a scribbled note: “A doctor will explain this to you on Monday.”

So there I was, with the diagnosis we had been waiting to receive for over six months. Yet, the deeper answers would be delayed. What did the diagnosis mean?

I Googled it. Chances are you would have done the same.

The medical community cautions patients and their families that not everything they read on the internet is accurate, factual or even pertinent to their condition. Dig deep enough and you can discover both the answers you want to find and the words you never want to hear.

Like many of you, I am a self-diagnosing Googler. I do this every single time a doctor hands us new information. I am not alone. Google handles approximately 3.5 billion search term requests a day.

Thankfully, they aren’t all medical terms. But many are.

I just can’t help myself. I flood myself with information and then spend hours sorting through what applies and what doesn’t, trying to focus on what my medical team has approved as “dependable” sites.

So how should you sift through the sea of information out there in cyberspace? Here are my Top 5 suggestions for effective Googling: 

  1. Start with and try to stick to sites that are generally backed by the medical community:,, and are a few to start with.
  2. Remember that every child is unique. The internet cannot define your child.
  3. Keep an open mind. What you find may not align with what you hear from the medical team, and your medical team knows your child better than the internet does.
  4. Use information you find to formulate questions and understand terminology and acronyms that are not part of your everyday vocabulary. This will help you come to the table prepared with the general knowledge you need to better contribute to any decision making.
  5. Do not use Google as a diagnostic tool and remember that Google does not give you an honorary medical degree. However, you are your child’s best advocate, so you will want to be as educated as possible on his/her condition.

About Sarah Pope

Sarah Pope is a Virginia Beach native and a member of the NICU Family Advisory Council. She has two boys, Clayton (6) and Bennett (2). Bennett, born at 36 weeks, spent four months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and two months in the Transitional Care Unit at CHKD. Sarah is an elementary school counselor who loves summer time and spending time with family.

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