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Baby with his pediatrician

5 Tips for Choosing a Pediatrician 

it's an important decision

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 16 times before baby’s first birthday.

Your child’s doctor plays an important role in their life, so you will need to find one that is a good fit for the parents 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.

Start with recommendations

As a first time parent—or a family that has just relocated—it is hard to know where to begin your search for a pediatrician. “I asked other moms for recommendations. It’s a great way to see what names came up repeatedly,” says fellow mom, Jill Miller.

Nurse and mom of three, Stacy Cook, 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 Hladky, chose the same primary care doctor for the whole family. “All four of us use the same doctor. It’s super convenient,” says Nathan.

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

Cover the basics

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

Second, check if the doctor is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. This certification 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 through a quick phone call. What are the office hours? Do they have walk-in availability? 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.

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 you need an appointment or if they have times set up for potential patients to come and visit the office. And ask if you can interview the doctor at the same time.

Before your visit, remember to ask if there is a charge for visiting. Verify with your insurance company to see if the cost will be covered or if you will 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.

Ask some questions

After you have decided that the office environment is a good fit, consider interviewing the pediatrician.

Pharmacists, Darcy and Phil King said after they collected recommendations, they scoured the websites, set up appointments and interviewed the doctors. “After the visits, it was very clear which was a good fit,” they say.

But what should you ask? Start by asking how sick appointments work. How long would it take for a sick child to be seen? 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. For example, do you want a doctor who offers choices and lets you decide which one works best for you? Or are you more comfortable with one who gives a lot of directions?

Overall, does the doctor seem genuinely interested in your child or does he or she seem distracted or rushed? Take your overall impression into account when making your decision. 

Bedside Manner

How the doctor interacts with your child will have a lot of impact on your decision. Do you and your child feel comfortable around the doctor? 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,” says mom, Becky Baldridge. “You see your pediatrician a lot in those first months, and if there is something really bothering you, it’s OK to switch.”

The parent’s goal is the same as the pediatrician—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.

When is it time to find a new pediatrician?

  • If your child cries the whole time, that alone is not cause to switch. However, if the doctor doesn’t seem to care or make an effort to soothe your child, you may have a problem.
  • If you’re unclear why a certain medication is prescribed or why a test is done
  • If you can’t come to an agreement, or at least a middle ground, on most issues
  • If the location and hours no longer work for your family
  • If the doctor often seems inaccessible when your child is sick
  • If the doctor is making you feel bad or consistently reproaching you for parenting choices
  • If you feel the doctor is not listening to your concerns

Before switching, discuss your concerns with the doctor. If a compromise cannot be made, it’s time to look elsewhere. Your child’s health is top priority.

Sarah Lyons is a contributing writer and mother of six children, including 2-year-old triplets. With a full house, they visit the pediatrician very often.

Image courtesy of iStock.