It's smart to scope out the pediatrician scene while you're still pregnant. It's important to have a pediatrician you've already met and respect, because you have enough going on after the baby is born without having to worry about finding a doctor.
To begin your search, get referrals from your obstetrician/gynecologist or nurse-midwife, other parents in the neighborhood, the public affairs department at the nearest hospital, a pediatric floor nurse at a local hospital or medical center.
Once you have few choices, you're ready to think about the next step.
What kind of practitioner should he/she be?
Many parents take their baby to a pediatrician, a doctor who specializes in the care of children. Focusing on children's health and practicing with kids each day gives pediatricians a leg up when it comes to expertise on children's medical issues.
Other parents prefer a family practitioner, a doctor specializing in family medicine who can treat the whole family, from birth to old age. One advantage these parents point to is that the family practitioner should be well versed in health issues that pertain to your entire family (genetic diseases, for example).
Either type of doctor is fine, as long as you feel comfortable and confident about your child's care.
Other factors may seem superficial but can still affect your rapport -- for instance, some people prefer a young female pediatrician, but others want a grandfatherly type. And some parents only have eyes for a doctor with parenting experience, no matter what their age. The most important thing: Do you and this doctor click? In going through her basic questions.
If you choose a family physician, is he certified ? Family doctors are trained to care for patients of all ages--including children--but they do not have specialized training in pediatrics.
Does the doctor have specialized training? This is particularly important to know if you think your child will have special medical needs.
When you've narrowed your choices down to two or three doctors, you're ready to get specific questions answered. If possible, set up interviews--face-to-face meetings will give you the opportunity to get to know the doctor and his staff and to ask about office policies.
Questions you should ask the doctor
- Do you have children? It may be comforting to know if your doctor has children the same gender.
- What is your childcare philosophy? Talk to him about breastfeeding, circumcision, alternative medicine, vaccinations, sleep and discipline issues.
- How long have you been in practice? If you don't have this information already, this would be the time to ask.
- Are you part of a group practice? If you go with a doctor in a solo practice, find out who covers when he's away. If he's part of a group practice, ask about the background of the other doctors. Some practices have pediatric nurse practitioners. They are fully trained nurses often with an MA and specialized training. Physician assistants are not nurses. They have college degrees and two years of physician assistant training.
- How long does a typical check-up last?
Ideally, at least 20 minutes.
- What are the office hours?
This is quite important specially during check-ups, vaccinations and during small ailments.
- How are emergencies handled?
Some offices accommodate same-day walk-in visits. Ask how after-hours emergencies and questions are handled.
- Is there a call-in policy?
Some pediatricians have a specific call-in period each day. In some practices, a nurse answers routine questions. Find out how such phone calls are taken and if there is a charge.
- Do you make house calls?
Some practitioners take in House calls, and some don’t but in later cases how are such calls answered is quite important for many parents.
Office and Staff
Evaluate the office:
Consider location when choosing a pediatrician. If your baby is sick, you won't want to travel far to get to the doctor, so it's a good idea to find one in your community.
Is the waiting area clean, and does it have clean toys and books?
Is there a separate waiting area for sick kids?
Is the staff friendly and helpful?
Do other patients seem to be waiting for a long time?
Finally, ask the staff about:
Does the practice accept your insurance?
Does it accept a variety of plans in case your coverage changes?
Is a payment plan possible if you are not covered?
- Which hospital is the doctor affiliated with?
- Does your insurance cover services there?
- What specialists are on staff?
- Is there 24-hour visiting for parents?
- If your child has to be admitted, can you stay overnight with him or her?
The benefits of committing to a pediatrician early aren't just for parents. Studies show that babies who see the same doctor for their first six months are up to twice as likely to receive important health tests before they turn 2. You don't want to have to reinvent the wheel every time, like going over whether the immunizations are up to date, "If you have a continuing relationship with a doctor, you have the time and comfort to go deeper."
These few questions can certainly let you make a sound decision, it helped me too. When I was pregnant I searched through many websites and compiled this list which further helped me find a perfect pediatrician for my son, Kabbir.
I delivered in the hospital where she was associated and was present in the OT when he was born since that day we have been visiting her and now we share a great rapport with her.
Do let us know if this was helpful?
By Nandita Sharma
That Imperfect Mom