How to choose a pediatrician

Pediatrician

I was wondering if you could share with us some sample interview questions we can take to potential pediatricians?  I have a few names that I’ve gotten from friends, but I’m not even sure what to ask, look for, etc. Thanks so much!

Finding a pediatrician whom you can trust is so important.  As with any doctor you have, you can always make a switch if the relationship isn’t working for you.  I think sometimes people forget that…and they stay with a doctor just because of shared history ~ even if that doctor doesn’t feel like a good fit.

Ideally, we’ll find an amazing pediatrician while still pregnant…and begin our patient-doctor love affair.  So, how do we begin the search for a good doctor?  What are we looking for?  What matters most (priorities) will vary from family to family, so my list below is not in any particular order.  These are some things you may want to consider when beginning your search:

  • Insurance – Do they take your insurance?  You might want to start there.
  • Location – Most people choose a pedi that is located near their home, but some choose one who is near their work, their child’s day care, etc. while others travel great distances to find someone aligned with their parenting styles and values.  Does location matter to you?
  • Availability – It might be important for you that there are office hours available after 5pm (especially if you’re working full time) and/or that there is someone on call during the weekends.  If your practice is not open on the weekends, does another practice provide back-up care or do you have to head to the ER when your child is sick?  As a new parent, you may find yourself worried about everything…so weekend support might be top of your list.
  • Call hours – Lots of practices offer call hours (before business hours).  This offers concerned parents an opportunity to ask questions to the doctor on call without necessarily going into the office.  You will get to speak with a doctor directly, which can be hard during business hours, and might save yourself a trip to the office.
  • Sick & Well Rooms – Some practices have two waiting areas (one for the sick children, one for children having routine well-visits) which is ideal, although perhaps not a deal maker/breaker.  Some practices also have different exam rooms for sick versus healthy children.  It might be of concern to you because you’d hate for your healthy babe to get sick at a check-up.
  • Friendly & Kind – How does the staff respond when you call with questions, make an appt, ask questions in the office?  It’s important that parents are heard and that the staff treats you with respect.  As a new mom, I would go into my appointments with a list of questions;  my doctor always took the time to answer them and never made me feel rushed.
  • Scheduling – While well-visits are scheduled in advance, sick visits are (obviously) not.  Some offices keep certain hours of the day open specifically for sick visits.  Does the office offer same day sick appointments?   Also, does the doctor(s) usually run on schedule…or should you expect to wait in the waiting room?
  • How do you feel about…vaccinations/alternate schedules, breast/bottle feeding, circumcision/electing not to circumcise, sleep training, co-sleeping, alternative medicines, discipline, feeding solids, etc.  These are just some of the issues that you will have to think about as a parent…and it’s best if your pediatrician supports how you choose to parent your child.  You want to find someone on board with your approach to parenting!

So, how do you get started?  The recommendations of friends & family (especially those who “think” like you do) offer a good place to start.  You can also search for top docs at ratemds.com or healthgrades.com or Angie’s List.  If you still haven’t found one, open up the phone book and start making some calls.

It’s not a bad idea to interview three of four different doctors before choosing one who seems right for your family.  Remember, while the doctor has been trained, (s)he is not the parent of your child – YOU ARE!  You will have insights, experiences, and intuition with your child that should be trusted.  Find a doctor who truly listens to you, respects what you say, offers support, information, and suggestions, but remains non-judgmental.  No two families (or children) are the same…so what works for one (or even most), might not work for yours.  A pediatrician with an open mind is better than one who believes in a one-size-fits-all approach.  Hopefully you’ll find an amazing pediatrician (or family doctor) for your kid(s) right away; but remember, if your feelings change (and you lose trust in your doctor),  you can always look for a new pediatrician.

Good luck on your search!  Take some notes to record your general observations (cleanliness of facility, comfort with doctor, etc) but most of all, listen to your gut.  You know what is best for your family!

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