There are many things in life that don’t require any homework or proper research. However, picking a pediatrician for your child is not one of them. It is important to spend a little bit of time and energy to make sure you find a doctor that will be the best fit for you and your family. So in your search to find that great doctor, here are a few helpful tips to help you along the way.
1- Do your homework
Start your search for a pediatrician by doing a little bit of research and detective work. Get referrals from
- your obstetrician/gynecologist or nurse-midwife,
- family friends,
- acquaintances, and
- other parents you know.
Word of mouth and one-to-one recommendations are a great place to start. When purchasing a product online, very few of us would do so without glancing at the reviews. Picking a pediatrician is much the same. Get some reviews. First-hand references from people you already know and trust are the best way to do this. If you can’t get any names or reviews of prospective doctors, then do some online research or ask your insurance provider which doctors in your area are covered under your plan.
2- Make sure the pediatrician is certified
Is the pediatrician you’re interested in certified by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP)? Or are they a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)?
You can check here: https://www.abp.org/content/verification-certification
If the doctor is certified, they will have an “FAAP” after his or her name. This means she/he has met established standards for providing child health care.
3- Does the doctor have specialized training?
This may be particularly important to know if your child has special medical needs and requires some extra help. The same is true for any other special medical or physical needs that your child may require. Finding someone with a bit more expertise may be is important.
4- Narrow down and interview
It may sound odd to interview someone for the job as your pediatrician but that’s what you should do. You want a doctor that will suit your family’s needs and requirements. After narrowing down your choices to two or three doctors, it’s time to get specific questions answered.
When possible, set up face-to-face meetings with each doctor. These don’t need to be any longer than 15-20 minutes. Doing so will give you an opportunity to get to know the doctor and his/her staff and to ask about their policies. You’ll also get a good idea of their personality which will go a long way toward your relationship with your family pediatrician.
Some questions you can ask:
- What is your childcare policy? (ie. in terms of breastfeeding, circumcision, alternative medicines, etc.)
- Are you part of a group practice? If you go to a doctor in a solo practice, it’s easy to know exactly whom you’ll be dealing with. If the physician is part of a group practice, ask
- how often you may get to see them,
- who their colleagues are, and
- how easy or difficult it will be to see the same doctor each time you visit.
For the sake of continuity, it’s always easier for the doctor, parents, and child to deal solely with one another as much as possible.
- How are emergencies handled? Some offices accommodate same-day walk-in visits. Ask how after-hours emergencies and questions are handled. Young children especially will likely be in and out of the doctor’s office quite often. It’s important to know how easy/difficult it will be to make different appointments
- Is there a call-in policy? Some pediatricians have a specific call-in period each day. In some practices, a nurse answers routine questions.
- Does the practice accept your insurance or does it accept a variety of plans in case your coverage changes? What are the payment plan options if you don’t have coverage?
- Look for a doctor that welcomes questions from you, seems to enjoy working with children, and takes the time to discuss problems and listen to your concerns.
*NOTE: When setting up an interview, be sure to ask if the doctor charges for such a meeting. Some practices do and others don’t.
Consider location when choosing a pediatrician. If your child is sick, the last thing you want to do is travel long distances. This may mean sacrificing your first choice pediatrician for your second choice doctor if your second choice is much closer to home. If you take into account drive time and waiting room time, you may want to pick a pediatrician closer to home. However, never base your decision solely on location, but do consider it.
6- Hospital affiliation
Find out which hospital the doctor is affiliated with and make sure your insurance covers services there. With regards to the hospital, find out what their visiting policies are -ie. if your child has to be admitted, if you can stay overnight, or if there is 24-hour visiting for parents.
7- What kind of practitioner should I look for?
Many parents want their babies or children to have a dedicated pediatrician (a doctor who specializes in the care of children). For obvious reasons, this has many benefits. On the other hand, other parents are happy to stick with their family practitioner. While these doctors don’t solely specialize in childhood medicine, they can treat the whole family, from birth to old age.
Either type of doctor is fine, as long as you feel comfortable and confident about your child’s care.