Choose a Pediatrician

Excerpted from

The Experts' Guide to the Baby Years: 100 Things Every Parent Should Know


Choosing a pediatrician is a very emotional process for most parents. You will entrust your most precious treasure to this person, and for this reason the choice should be a careful one. Your pediatrician will be there not only to monitor your child's health, but hopefully to offer you guidance on child rearing, too.

Where to start? Recommendations are the best way to go. Your friends who already have a baby will tell you about their doctors, or, if you are the first one to have kids within your circle of friends, ask around at work or even at the supermarket. When people are satisfied with their pediatrician, they are very forthcoming. Once you have gathered a few names, start with the ones that are geographically convenient and those who participate in your insurance plan.

No matter how good your pediatrician, the care of your baby will be made easier if you are able to get to her office easily. Convenience should not be the only factor, however. If you feel the contact with your pediatrician is not optimal, it is worth looking further to find one with good communication skills and a similar philosophy to yours.

The next step is to set up a prenatal visit to the doctor's office. Most pediatricians make these visits available to prospective parents (usually for free). Go prepared with a list of questions and arrive a few minutes in advance to gather some valuable information about the office, the handling of sick visits, walk-ins, telephone calls, and emergencies. Some offices have separate waiting rooms for sick and well children but this does little for sickness prevention. Most illnesses are contagious at the onset when kids are not yet showing symptoms, and the same staff takes care of both groups of kids, which contributes largely to the transmission of germs in an office.

Observing the Office

Look around the office. Is it clean? Are there any cool toys? Is it pleasant? Is it a place where you feel at ease? The decor and the appearance of the office can tell you a lot about the doctor and his philosophy.

Observe how happy the parents and kids are when they come out of the examination rooms. Strike up a conversation with other parents waiting in the office. You will be able to get a sense of the care and the level of satisfaction from those parents.

Most important, observe the staff and talk to them. These are the people you will be dealing with at least as much as your pediatrician, so you'll want to get along with them. They are also representative of the work ethic of the practitioner. Are they courteous and accommodating? How do they answer the phone? Are they friendly with parents and, of course, the kids?

Interviewing the Doctor

  • Ask about office hours. Are there early morning or late evening hours for working parents?

  • How long in advance must you book appointments and can you see the same doctor at each visit?

  • How are phone calls handled for nonurgent questions and sick visits?

  • does the doctor answer any general questions by e-mail?

  • How does the office deal with after-hours emergencies? Find out if they will be handled by your doctor or referred out.

  • Is there a twenty-four-hour answering service that can connect you to a doctor? And in what fashion? This is a crucial point.

  • Who covers for the doctor when he is on vacation? Make sure that there is a backup doctor so that you are never left in the lurch.

  • Ask the pediatrician how much he will guide you in reference to sleep, nutrition, behavioral problems, and child development, and try to gauge his angles on these topics. His expertise is important since most kids are basically healthy and most of the discussions during routine office visits will revolve around these child-rearing topics.

  • Last but not least, try to ascertain the philosophy of your future pediatrician with regard to intervention and medications. Pediatricians can be very aggressive in their diagnoses and treatment or have more of a hands-off approach. Although the trend is toward the latter, it is important that you feel comfortable with your pediatrician's approach to medication.

Tags: Babies and Toddlers

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