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Finding a Pediatrician

Entrusting your baby's health to a stranger is certainly one of the harder things we must do as parents but one of the most important. You'll want someone whose expertise in children's health and development is exemplary, someone who has the necessary credentials and affiliations, a person who can relate to your child and whom you can trust and feel comfortable with.

The best time to find a pediatrician is BEFORE your baby is born. Ask your obstetrician, labor and delivery nurses, childbirth educators, other parents, neighbors, family members, and friends with children for recommendations. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you ask your family and friends the following questions when they recommend a certain pediatrician:

  • Do you get all your questions answered by the pediatrician and the office staff?
  • Do you think your children respond well to the doctor?
  • Does the pediatrician seem to know the latest advances in pediatric medicine?
  • How helpful and friendly is the office staff?
  • How well does the office staff manage your telephone calls?
  • If an emergency arises, how is it handled?
  • Do you regularly experience long delays before seeing the pediatrician?
  • Is there anything about the pediatrician (or the office) that troubles you?
Ask yourself what type of practice you'd feel the most comfortable with - a pediatrician in a solo practice, a pediatrician who works in a partnership with another pediatrician, or a group practice. If you're not sure, interview different types to see what "feels right" to you.

Once you've created your list of potential doctors, call each office for an interview. Explain your situation (ie you are 28 weeks pregnant or you have a 3 year old, etc), that you are looking for a pediatrician and that you'd like to schedule an interview with the doctor. Ask if a fee is involved. Some doctors won't charge and others will.

If possible, both mom and dad should attend these meetings. You can compare notes afterwards and may have different feelings about the interview/doctor/office. Try to visit at least two different doctors for comparison purposes. Before the appointments, make a list of questions for the office and the pediatrician. Work on this list together as one of you may think of something the other forgot. Be sure to take this list of questions with you to your appointments.

When you get to the office, take a look around. Do you feel comfortable there? Is it clean, overly sterile, overly chaotic? Is the staff friendly and helpful? Are sick children separated from healthy ones? Are you rushed here and there? Are there age appropriate toys and books for children?

Ask the receptionist a few questions (remember that the pediatrician's entire staff will be helping you so if you hate the staff but love the doctor, you might be in for some frustrating times). Find out about the office hours, emergency procedures, phone hours, billing procedures, and insurance issues.

After the appointment, think about your overall impression. Did the doctor hear your questions or just talk at you? Did you feel rushed? Was s/he responsive to both of you? Were your questions answered completely and to your satisfaction? Did s/he seem compassionate and knowledgeable? Did s/he appear to enjoy children and her/his job?

Did any one person stand out on your list? If so, that's your doctor. If not, think about those that you did like. What was it that you liked? What was it that you didn't like? Can you live with those aspects you didn't like? Through process of elimination, you'll be able to find your pediatrician. If, after you've gone to this doctor for awhile, and you realize you've made a mistake, trust your instincts and make a change. This is your child after all!

Resources:
     American Academy of Pediatrics - You and Your Pediatrician

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