One night, you’re lying awake in your bed thinking: I’m going to be a parent? How am I ever going to take care of a kid? How do I even find a pediatrician who I can comfortably put in care of my children?
My wife and I were lucky. She’s a registered nurse whose spent her whole career working in a major maternity hospital. She’d been in regular contact with the best – and the not-so-best – pediatricians practicing in our metro area. She had her future pediatrician lined up long before we got married and decided to have children.
And she was right, the doctor she chose was knowledgeable, calm and warm. Nothing fazed him. Not our kids’ midnight coughing fits or stomachs covered in red blotches. That made it easier for us and for our children to stay calm. They knew they were in good hands. (They also grew to understand there was a lollipop waiting for them at the nurses’ station on the way out the door!)
Finding the best pediatrician you can will be one way to make sure your child starts off life on the right foot and continues his or her growth right through the time they walk off the stage with a high school diploma in hand.
You’re going to spend a lot of time in doctor’s offices when you have kids. And, if you intend to have more than one child, those visits will multiply – exponentially, it will seem. There will be dozens and dozens of appointments, phone calls, emails and treatment plans to wade through over the 18 years that each child’s health care is in the hands of a pediatrician.
So, take the time to find a pediatrician that is right for you and your family.
While there is no single quality that makes someone an excellent pediatrician, there are certain attributes for which you need to look. Pediatrics is a popular specialty, so if you live in or near a city, you’ll have a choice of pediatricians.
To begin your search for a pediatrician, get referrals from your obstetrician/gynecologist, nurse-midwife or other parents you know. As with all medical consumer issues, do your homework.
Do they accept most health insurance plans? Don’t add to the anxiety of shepherding a sick kid by failing to learn whether the doctor accepts your health insurance.
Do they have patient reviews that you can see?
Is the pediatrician certified with the American Board of Pediatrics?
If you choose a family physician, is he or she certified by the American Board of Family Medicine? Family doctors are trained to care for patients of all ages – including children.
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, make appointments to get a sense of how the doctors and their staffs interact with patients and with each other.
How is their demeanor? Are the pediatrician and the office staff welcoming, efficient and respectful? Do they thoroughly explain your options in an easy to understand way?
How do they interact with your child? Your child is not an adult and shouldn’t be treated like one. Teenagers, on the other hand, probably will appreciate a more grown-up approach from their pediatrician. Whoever you choose for your child’s pediatrician, they should be able to relate to and communicate with their patients, no matter the age.
Even so, there may come a time when your boy or girl will feel more comfortable with a pediatrician of the same gender. This is often the case as children grow into teenagers. A pediatrician that belongs to a group practice may make it easier to switch doctors. Some parents feel more comfortable around a pediatrician who has children of their own – don’t be afraid to ask about a doctor’s family status.
What about emergencies and off-hour treatment? Childhood ailments do not always present themselves at convenient times. You’ll want to know if there is a call-in policy and off-hour coverage.
Is the pediatrician really taking the time to consider the health care concerns I have for my child? You should have a sense that the pediatrician listens to the symptoms you describe and can draw your child – if they are old enough – into a conversation. The pediatrician should be willing to discuss treatment options that are right for your child. As with other medical professionals, you should have a sense the pediatrician you choose will be a partner for you and your family.
After the visit, ask yourself:
- Were there separate waiting areas for sick children and those arriving for exams or routine visits?
- Was the waiting area clean? Where there toys or books to keep children occupied?
- Did you have to wait a long time before you were seen?
- Did the exam feel complete?
- Did he or she listen to my questions and concerns?
- Did they make me feel comfortable?
In the end, what you’ll want to come away feeling is that whatever the age or gender of your child happens to be, a pediatrician will treat him or her as if they were their own child, with kindness and caring. And, if you’re lucky, they’ll let you have a lollipop on the way out the door.
Parents, share your sage advice with new parents in the comments below. How did you find a pediatrician for your kids? Or, if you’re the new parent, what other questions do you have in regards to choosing a pediatrician?