Five Tips for Choosing a Pediatrician
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. (FitPregnancy.com)
Because your child’s doctor plays such an important role in his life, you will want to find a pediatrician that is a good fit for the whole family. Finding the right pediatrician can be a challenge, so here are some tips to get you started on your search:
Start with recommendations.
First-time parents or families that have just relocated can find it is hard to know where to begin their search for a pediatrician. “I asked other moms for recommendations. It’s a great way to see what names came up repeatedly,” says Jill Miller, Cedar Rapids, IA, mom.
Stacy Cook, local 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,” she says. Some parents, like Nathan and Wendy Hladky of Overland Park, 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 the local NICU and ask the nurses who they would recommend. “The nurses are more likely to give unbiased feedback,” says Rodganna Avery, mom of three.
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,” Stephanie Beaudry, Texas mom of two, says. “I was able to find a doctor that was better than we ever expected.”
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? To what hospital would your child be admitted if necessary? 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 whether you feel comfortable in the pediatrician's office, you will have to take a tour. Call the office and ask whether they have times set up for potential patients to come and visit the office or if you would need to make an appointment and 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 whether they will cover the cost or whether you will be responsible for the fees.
When visiting the office, be aware of what the overall environment feels like. Take note of whether 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 review.
Ask some questions.
After you have decided that the office environment is a good fit, you will need to interview the pediatrician. Lenexa pharmacists Darcy and Phil King say, “After collecting recommendations, we 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? Also keep in mind what your own preferences are. BabyCenter.com prompts, “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.
Evaluate 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? Is the physician willing to take the time to listen to your questions and concerns? A good bedside manner can go a long way toward 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 Olathe mom Becky Baldridge. The parents’ goal is the same as the pediatrician’s: a happy and healthy child. When you find a doctor who 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 lives in Olathe with her family.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.