How to Choose a Great Pediatrician
Parents take different approaches when choosing a pediatrician. Some choose the pediatrician on call in the hospital when their baby is born or pick a doctor from their insurance directory. Others do detailed research and conduct an interview to learn more about the potential pediatrician’s background and philosophy.
Choosing the right pediatrician is an important decision, as they could be making life-changing decisions about your baby. The truth is, you should put some thought into who cares for your newborn, even if they are perfectly healthy.
Ask For Recommendations
A common way to find a good pediatrician is through people you know and trust. When someone tells you that they love going to their pediatrician, be sure to ask why. Parents have different needs and different reasons for choosing or liking their pediatrician. For example, one mom might like that their pediatrician is really fast and they are in and out of the office quickly, while another wants someone who spends more time during the visit.
How to Find the Names of Qualified Pediatricians
Another more traditional way to find pediatricians is through the American Academy of Pediatrics and HealthyChildren.org, which can supply you with names of board-certified pediatricians in your community through their Find a Pediatrician tool. Only Fellows of the American Academy of Pediatrics or “FAAPs” are listed in this tool. Only board-certified pediatricians can add the designation “FAAP” after their names, which means they have reached the highest status of membership in this professional organization.
Additionally, most local medical societies provide referral services to pediatricians in their area who are taking new patients. If you are located near a major medical center or community hospital, you can also contact its department of pediatrics for the names of doctors in your area.
Once you have a list of doctors, call each office and inquire about the doctor’s background and training, as well as general office procedures. If you are impressed with what you hear and want to learn more, you can request a phone interview to ask additional questions.
Here’s a list of questions you may want to ask:
- What medical school did the pediatrician attend, and where did he or she undergo postgraduate and residency training? (Medical directories in many public libraries and online—such as the American Board of Medical Specialists Directory—can also help answer these questions.)
- What are the doctor’s present hospital appointments? If it becomes necessary for your child to be hospitalized, where would he or she be admitted?
- Is the pediatrician’s office conveniently located to you?
- Are the office hours convenient for your own schedule? If you are a working parent, you may desire evening or weekend hours.
- What is the doctor’s policy on taking and returning phone calls? Is there a nurse in the office who can answer routine questions?
- Is the doctor in a group practice with other physicians? Does another physician cover for the doctor at times?
- How are visits for acute illnesses handled? Can you make an appointment on short notice if your child needs to see the pediatrician because of a sore throat, cold, or a potential ear infection, for example?
- What is the office policy regarding the processing of insurance forms?
- What will be the fees you will be responsible for when seeing the doctor for sick visits and routine examinations?
Look into their Philosophy
All doctors serve and protect patient health, but each one has their own individual approach to upholding their oath. Your family will develop a relationship with your pediatrician over the years, and it’s important to build respect and rapport with your doctor.
Here are a few questions that will help you better understand your doctor’s philosophy:
- What inspired you to become a pediatrician? This is an opportunity to hear about their heart and vision as a doctor, as well as ensure you’re aligned with their methodology.
- How do you approach well-visits? Since well-visits are the bare minimum of when you’ll see this doctor after baby is born, it’s helpful to ask ahead to see how they approach them. Sometimes, it’s a short visit followed by a meeting with a nurse about vaccines. Other times, you may have extended time to touch base with your doctor about concerns.
- Do both the physician and the office staff appear amicable and courteous? You’ll want to ensure that they demonstrate compassion and patience.
- Does the doctor communicate clearly to explain illnesses and treatments, and does the doctor make an effort to ensure that all your questions are answered?
- If your child ever develops a complex illness that requires the care of one or more specialists, will your pediatrician coordinate care among all the doctors providing treatment? In case of a serious medical development, you’d want to know how your doctor makes recommendations and decisions.
Other things, such as personality, are personal preference. It’s also helpful to keep an open mind, as you could find a perfect fit and insurance may change. Overall, your pediatrician may be the longest physician connection in your child’s life, so its most important to make sure the non-negotiables are met.