Finding a pediatrician for your new baby involves more than assessing the doctor’s professional experience and practice. You also want someone who will be engaging, open and trustworthy to your child and you – someone your whole family can feel comfortable with. The right pediatrician will be able to meet all of your needs and be available for the long term, as your child grows.
Try to choose a pediatrician before your baby is born, so that he or she can start seeing your child from infancy (often even while the baby is still in the hospital with you).
Where Do You Begin?
1. Check the names of pediatricians covered under your health insurance plan. Then check their credentials. World-renowned pediatrician and child-development expert T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., suggests looking into the following: Is the physician well-trained, with access to a good hospital? Is he available when you need him? Does he have coverage for when he’s not available? Since many pediatricians practice in a group, one member should be available for coverage at all times.
2. Decide what kind of doctor or health practitioner is right for your family. Would you prefer a pediatrician, a nurse practitioner or a family physician who is trained to provide care for adults and children? Nurse practitioners are common in many pediatrics practices now and are likely to care for your child at some point, so it’s important that you feel comfortable with them.
3. Ask around. Perhaps you know some parents or families who are patients of a doctor you’re considering. Ask if they like and respect the physician, if they’re comfortable with her “bedside manner,” availability and communication.
4. Look for a pediatrician trained in child development. Dr. Brazelton, specifically, recommends this, explaining that these pediatricians usually teach in a medical center and know how to conduct a clinic for assessment and early intervention if a child has any physical or psychological problems. You could also ask your pediatrician to recommend one of these doctors for additional care if you have concerns that aren’t being answered by your doctor.
5. Pick a group practice that has a child psychologist who can help you with behavioral problems. You can make a special arrangement to see him or her periodically to have an assessment of your child and to get an answer to your stored-up questions. Be aware that many pediatricians are also trained in child-behavior issues. Ask them about that training during your pediatrician selection process.
6. Request a visit and an interview with your prospective pediatricians. Ideally, you should be interviewing more than one and considering more than one practice. When you arrive, try to gauge the following:
• Does the office seem child-friendly? Do you feel comfortable?
• Does the doctor listen to your questions and answer them respectfully and thoroughly?
• What is his or her philosophy of care? Do you agree on important issues, such as preventive medicine, use of medication and vaccinations?
• What are the office hours? Is the office open on weekends?
• Is the doctor available when needed? Does he or she have hours for telephone consultation? Are there hours for well-child visits? How are emergencies handled, particularly after-hours?
• How does the doctor keep parents updated on a child’s progress?
• Does the doctor accept your health insurance? Is it accepted at the doctor’s affiliated hospital?
• Does the pediatrician have admitting privileges with any of the hospitals in your area? What arrangements can be made?
• Is the doctor keeping up with current recommendations in pediatric medicine? A good resource for comparisons is the American Academy of Pediatrics (online at www.aap.org).
7. Most important of all, you should feel comfortable with this doctor. Trust that feeling you get in your gut. You don’t want to feel as if the doctor is too busy to answer your questions, and you don’t want to feel as if he or she can’t talk at your level. Just be sure to leave some room to cut him or her some slack. He or she may just be having a bad day. Many pediatricians will allow for follow-up questions at a later visit.