Finding the Perfect Pediatrician
Finding the Perfect Pediatrician
Parenthood is full of stressful situations, especially when your child is sick, or you have questions about their health or development. Having a trusted pediatrician is one of the most important pieces in keeping your child healthy. Finding the right fit for you and your child can be difficult, but by doing your research, understanding your needs and asking the right questions, you can find the right provider that will be an invaluable resource for many years, even decades.
You’ll need to find a pediatrician for a number of reasons. The most likely is when you’re expecting with your first little one. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests starting your search in the last few weeks of your pregnancy, but many expectant mothers start their search as early as their second trimester. You may also be searching for a new pediatrician if you move to a new area, switch insurance plans, or your current physician retires or relocates. Regardless of your circumstances, you can find the right fit by following these steps.
Where to Start
Your research can start by simply asking your friends and family in the area for recommendations, leading to a list of physicians that are used by people you know and trust. If you’re relocating and don’t know anyone in the area, community or mom groups on Facebook can be a great place to ask for recommendations to help build your list of candidates. The AAP, WebMD and many other health care websites offer physician finder options to help connect you with pediatricians in your area.
Once you have a list of potential candidates, be sure to confirm that the physician accepts your health insurance. You can determine this by contacting your insurance carrier by phone or through a doctor finder service on their website. You can also call the pediatrician’s office to confirm they accept your insurance.
Many pediatric practices have detailed websites that can provide you with a wealth of information about their doctors, including how long they have been with a practice, when and where they attended undergraduate and medical school, degrees and fellowships, and other relevant biographical information. By doing some extra research online, you can create a short list of doctors that meet your criteria to interview.
Setting up an Interview
After finding a potential pediatrician, you can call their office to set up a new patient interview or meet and greet. If a provider does not offer that opportunity, they’re probably not your best option. Be sure to come prepared with a list of questions to ask. Your peace of mind is critical to the process, so even if you feel you might have a “stupid” question, put it on the list! Rest assured that it has probably been asked before.
A list of sample questions can be found below. Write down your questions in a notebook and bring them with you, taking notes along the way so you don’t forget anything. Make sure to spend time thinking about what is most important to you when creating your list of questions. For example, do you want your child to see the same doctor for every visit? Many practices schedule your wellness check-ups and physicals with the same doctor, but sick visits may be scheduled with a rotating group of physicians, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants.
Do the physician’s office hours work with your schedule? While a sick child can bring your normal routine to a grinding halt, early or extended office hours can limit the disruption.
Expectant mothers should also ask about the first time their new baby will see their pediatrician. Will the doctor visit them after delivery in the hospital or will their first contact be at the doctor’s office? Larger practices may often have a rotation of doctors on call available for a newborn hospital visit and then you will see your doctor at your first appointment shortly after getting settled at home. By confirming those details in advance, you can alleviate extra stress as your delivery day approaches.
After the Interview
Be sure to take some time shortly after your visit, whether it be in the parking lot or back at home, to reflect on your experience and observations outside of the questions you asked.
-What was your general impression of the visit?
-Was the office clean and welcoming?
-Was the staff friendly and helpful?
-Did your appointment start on time?
-Does your personality mesh well with your physician?
-Can you see yourself bringing your child to this health care provider for the next 20 years?
You may want to interview a number of physicians or perhaps you’ll feel confident with the first doctor you meet. Either way, allow plenty of time in advance before the arrival of your baby or your relocation to the area to make sure you have a physician ready to see your child when you need them. Your needs may change over time as well and you can always find a new pediatrician that is a better fit. There is nothing more important than your child’s health and having the right pediatrician makes all the difference.
About the Doctor
How long have you been practicing medicine?
Where did you attend medical school?
Did you complete a fellowship or have a subspecialty?
What hospital are you affiliated with or refer to?
What are your thoughts on topics like sleep training, pacifiers, breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, formula, circumcision, antibiotics, vaccines, etc.?
Will you visit me and my newborn in the hospital or will our first visit be in your office?
About the Practice
What are your office hours? Do you offer early, extended, or weekend hours?
What services are available outside of those hours? What do I do when my child is sick, or I have concerns outside of normal office hours?
Are there other doctors in this practice? Who sees your patients when you’re not available?
Is a doctor from the practice always on call?
Do you offer same-day sick visits? Are they with you or another provider in the practice?
Are any other services, like blood work or radiology, available onsite?