How to Select a Pediatrician
Choosing a pediatrician for your baby is no easy task. After all, this doctor will help your little one through childhood vaccinations, nasty colds, and everything in between. But when should you start looking for a pediatrician, and what criteria should you focus on? Here are our top tips for choosing the best pediatrician near you.
When Should I Look For a Pediatrician?
Start looking for pediatricians while you’re still pregnant—preferably between 28 and 34 weeks along. “It’s important to have a pediatrician you’ve already met and respect, because you have enough going on after the baby is born,
There’s also another benefit of finding a pediatrician early: Dr. Alessandrini’s recent study, which she co-authored, found that babies who see the same doctor for their first 6 months are up to twice as likely to receive important health tests before they turn 2. Sticking with the same doctor also prevents wasted time on things like “going over whether immunizations are up to date,” she says. “If you have a continuing relationship with a doctor, you have the time and comfort to go deeper.”
How to Research a Pediatrician
Searching for a pediatrician may seem daunting, but remember that you’re not trying to find “the best doctor in the world.” You’re simply looking for the most effective doctor for you, your partner, and your future child. Here are some tips.
Get references. Everyone has different criteria for picking a pediatrician, so you should collect at least three names from friends and coworkers. (If you’re short on preferred doctors, try the American Academy of Pediatrics’ referral site at aap.org/referral.) Also look into the hospitals that your candidates are affiliated with; you’ll want one that’s both convenient and reputable.
How to Choose the Best Pediatrician for Your Child
Parents seem to go to a lot of different extremes when choosing a pediatrician.
Some do almost nothing and simply choose the pediatrician on call in the hospital when their baby is born or pick a doctor randomly from a list in the phone book or their insurance directory
The Importance of Choosing a Pediatrician
Choosing the right pediatrician is more important than most parents think. While you can simply change doctors if you don’t like the first pediatrician you see, if your newborn or older child is truly sick, the first doctor you see could be making life-changing decisions about your child. Or they could miss a potentially life-threatening problem.
A common way for parents to choose a pediatrician is to get a recommendation from their friends or family members. This is probably one of the best ways, but when someone tells you that they love going to their pediatrician, be sure to ask why before you blindly follow them to the same office.
Many parents have different needs and you may be really turned off by the reason that they like their doctor. For example, they might like that their pediatrician is really fast and they are in and out of the office quickly, while you might like someone who moves slower and spends more time during the visit, even if it means that you have to wait a little longer for your appointment. Or your friend might like that their pediatrician prescribes an antibiotic every time they walk into the office, whether or not they need one.
How to Choose a Pediatrician
When looking for a pediatrician to care for your baby, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to find someone both you and your partner feel comfortable with. So it’s a good idea to begin choosing a pediatrician at the beginning of your third trimester. Ask your OB and trusted family and friends for recommendations. These questions can help you choose the right pediatrician for you.
Does this doctor have a good reputation?
What is this doctor’s training and experience?
Does the pediatrician respect my philosophy on breastfeeding and immunizations?
Does the doctor listen to me and explain things clearly?
Will my child see the same doctor every time?
Who covers for the pediatrician when he or she is not available?
Is my spouse or partner comfortable with this doctor?
Is the office staff pleasant and helpful?
Is the office location convenient?
How long does it take to get an appointment?
How long will my child and I spend in the waiting room?
Does the pediatrician offer evening and weekend hours? Who sees my child during these hours?
How are emergencies and after-hour calls handled?
What hospital is the pediatrician affiliated with?
Does my insurance cover this doctor’s services?
Choosing a Pediatrician
Choosing a pediatrician might not appear to be important early in pregnancy, but selecting a pediatrician is very important. Many women begin their search for a pediatrician during their second trimester of pregnancy
What is a Pediatrician?
A pediatrician is a medical doctor that specializes in the care of infants, adolescents, and children as old as 21. Many pediatricians are also trained in subspecialties such as neonatal medicine and cardiology.
What services do Pediatricians provide?
Pediatricians provide preventive care to healthy children and medical care to children with illnesses. The care they provide includes physical, mental and emotional support. Most pediatricians offer a variety of services for children and their parents
Services may include:
Evaluating a child’s growth and development
Education about children’s safety, lifestyle, and breastfeeding
Detecting problems such as developmental disorders and behavioral difficulties
Diagnosing common illnesses such as ear infections and stomach flu
How are Pediatricians trained?
Pediatricians must complete the requirements set by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP).
Tips for Choosing a Pediatrician
Start with a referral list from your own doctor. You can also ask family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. If you’re new to an area, ask your former pediatrician for a referral in your new town. Then, take the time to research the pediatricians’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you narrow your list, visit open houses that many practices offer so you can learn about the practice. You can also make appointments to meet and interview the pediatricians
Research the Pediatrician’s Credentials
Board certification is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting a pediatrician. It tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide healthcare for your child. Also confirm that the pediatrician has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the pediatrician’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
Consider the Pediatrician’s Experience
Parents call upon their pediatrician for everything from well-child visits and routine physicals to allergy and chronic headache treatments. So experience matters. The more experience a pediatrician has, the better your results are likely to be. If your child has a specific condition, such as ADHD, ask how many patients with the condition the pediatrician has treated. If you know that your child will need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
Most likely, your baby or toddler will not care whether a doctor is male or female. While you may have your own preference for your child, think about the years to come. For example, embarrassment or fear of a pelvic exam or breast exam may be a reason that a teenage girl would prefer a female doctor. If gender is not something you want to base your decision on right now, consider choosing a larger practice with both male and female doctors.
Consider Office Atmosphere
You may be spending a good deal of time at your pediatrician’s office if you have an infant or very young child. Make sure you are comfortable with the practice and that your child’s needs will be met. For example, are there separate waiting areas for sick visits and well visits? Does the office have a small play area or other ways to keep your child occupied while you wait? How many people are waiting? How does the office staff treat you and other parents and patients? Is the pediatrician part of a group practice? Ask about after hours urgent care and what happens if your pediatrician goes on vacation.