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Choosing a Pediatrician

By Sarah Lyons

After your baby is born, you will visit the pediatrician often. In the first year, your baby will have seven well visits. Studies show that first time parents may visit their child’s pediatrician up to sixteen times before baby’s first birthday.

Your child’s doctor plays an important role in your baby’s life; therefore, you will need to find one that is a good fit for you and the child. It can be challenging to find a pediatrician that is right for your family. Here are some tips to get you started on your search.

1. Start with recommendations

As a first time parent, or a family that has just relocated, it’s hard to know where to begin your search for a pediatrician. “I asked other moms for a recommendation. It’s a great way to see what names came up repeatedly,” says local mom, Jill. Stacy, nurse and mom of three suggests asking your OB GYN for a recommendation. “I figured if they were good enough for my doctor’s kids then they were good enough for mine.” Some parents, like Nathan and Wendy, chose the same primary care doctor for the whole family. “All four of us use the same doctor. It is super convenient.” says Nathan.

Another great way to narrow your search in a new area is to call a local NICU and ask the nurses who they would recommend. “The nurses are more likely to give unbiased feedback,” says Rodganna, mom of three.

2. Cover the basics

First you must compare your list of candidates with your insurance policy. Look to see what providers are in your network and then start looking for reviews of those doctors online. “I was able to find a doctor that was better than we ever expected,” says Stephanie, mom of two.

Check if the doctor is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. This means the doctor has passed a specialized test in pediatrics. If you choose a family doctor, ask if the doctor is certified in the American Board of Family Medicine. Family doctors are trained to treat patients of all ages, including children, but they do not have a specialty in pediatrics.

Next consider the basic office information that can be found online or with a quick phone call. What are the office hours? Do they have walk in hours? Will the doctor visit the hospital where you will deliver your baby? What hospital will your child be admitted to if needed? Is the office location convenient to your home, work, school, and daycare? Take these things into consideration as you narrow down your list.

3. Visit the office

To find out if you feel comfortable in the pediatrician’s office, you will have to take a tour. Call the office and ask if they have times set up for potential patients to come and visit the office, or if you would need to make an appointment. Maybe ask if you can interview the doctor at the same time. Remember to ask if there is a charge for visiting. Verify with your insurance company to see if the cost would be covered or if you would be responsible for the fees.

When visiting the office be aware of what the overall environment feels like. Take into consideration if the office staff is courteous, polite, and willing to help. Is the office clean and inviting? Was parking convenient? Do they have separate sick and well waiting areas? Take all of these things into consideration in your decision. If you plan to visit more than one office, be sure to take notes for later consideration.

4. Ask some questions

After you have decided that the office environment is a good fit, you will need to interview the pediatrician. Pharmacists, Darcy and Phil said, “After collecting recommendations, I scoured their websites, set up appointments and interviewed them. After the visits, it was very clear which was a good fit.”

Start by asking how sick appointments work. How long would it take for a sick child to be seen? Is there a good chance the child will be seen by his own doctor? Do you have similar views on health and wellness such as circumcision, breastfeeding, and immunizations? It’s also important to consider what your preferences are. “Do you want a doctor who offers choices and lets you decide which one works best for you? Or would you be more comfortable with one who gives a lot of directions?” Overall, does the doctor seem genuinely interested in your child or does he seem distracted or rushed? Take your overall impression into account when making your decision.

5. Bedside manner

How the doctor interacts with your child will have a lot of impact on the decision to choose a pediatrician. Do you feel comfortable around the doctor? Does your child? Are they willing to take the time to listen to your questions and concerns? A good bedside manner can go a long way in making you and your child feel comfortable.

Finding the right pediatrician can be overwhelming, but realize your decision does not have to be permanent. “It’s important to recognize you are not stuck with your decision. You see your pediatrician a lot in those first months and if there is something really bothering you, it’s okay to switch,” says Becky, mom of 3. The parent’s goal is the same as the pediatrician’s, a happy and healthy child. When you find a doctor that is a good fit for your family, you can all work together to reach this goal.