How to Choose the “Right” Pediatrician For Your Family
Though I’m not a doctor, having gone through the process of finding a pediatrician several times for my oodles of children (thanks to several moves and pediatricians leaving practice to have babies or teach), I’ve discovered a thing or two about researching & selecting the “right” pediatrician that might help alleviate much of that new mom anxiety out there surrounding doctor selection. I would love to hear what you’ve learned along the way in finding your own pediatrician too, and I know other moms and moms-to-be would as well! Please consider leaving a comment below.
The Mile-Long Pediatrician Interview Checklist
Like many first time moms, when I expected my first child, I made a mile-long checklist of interview questions for prospective pediatricians, wanting to know everything from their philosophies on vaccine schedules, extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping to views on antibiotics, pacifiers & starting solids. I remember interviewing several pediatricians, finally settling on the “right” pediatrician who “passed” my interview. Oh, fwiw, she had a nice smile and wore fabulous shoes. Once baby arrived, I discovered she was also pretty darn awesome with my child.
But then she had the brilliant idea of leaving practice to start her own family. The perfect pediatrician gone! Back to square one. Over the years, moves happened and pediatricians moved on from their practices, usually to raise their own babies or pursue teaching gigs, putting me again on the prowl for the next, new “right” pediatrician.
Though I ditched my nervous-nellie, new mom interview checklist years ago, I’ve come to believe that finding the right pediatrician is no different than meeting or making a new friend. Finding the “right” pediatrician it’s ultimately about whether and how you click with each other. Sure, there’s a ton of value in those grueling interview checklists, but knowing whether a pediatrician is “right” for your family is often a matter of how it feels when you interact with her or him–and if your child is born, how s/he interacts with your child.
Do you feel comfortable asking all of your questions? And, I mean all of your questions. Do you feel the doctor respects you, your child and your time (yes, that matters, too-it’s a two way street), and doesn’t judge you, enough so, as to give you the answers you need and want to best care for your child? Do you feel the pediatrician is honest with you, giving you the whole picture, not withholding information–in a nutshell, communicating with you, as a trusted friend would and a professional should? Do you feel that this is someone you could comfortably call at anytime of day/night and have confidence knowing that s/he will call you back (and if they aren’t available, knowing that they will have someone else get in touch with you)?
Though I’ve had only one “nightmare” doctor experience (my child’s pediatrician was unavailable), I’ve met and regularly taken my children to visit a number of amazing ones, and also to a bunch of ho-hum ones. The difference? The ones that I’ve liked (and my children have liked) the most are ones that I/we communicate with best, where it feels like if they weren’t a doctor, had I met them on a playdate or at the grocery store, we probably would have both clicked anyway. There’s a mutual respect, appreciation, and understanding of my children (and me, as a parent) as individuals, and the willingness to care and help to the extent reasonably and medically possible.
Pretty much like a good friend would do.
Of course, if you’re a new (or experienced) mom, you will likely still want to ask lots of objective questions before proclaiming that you’ve found the “right” pediatrician. Here are some of the popular questions new moms ask prospective pediatricians:
1. Doctor Background Details, e.g., How long have you been practicing? Do you have any special interests in pediatrics (e.g., infants, adolescents, allergies).
2. What is your office schedule? Do you practice on weekends or are you on call/work on weekends at the clinic? What happens if you’re not available?
3. How quickly can I get my sick child into the office? How far out do you schedule well-child or sports /physical visits?
4. Do you have a regular administrative assistant (don’t underestimate the value of getting to know your doctor’s assistants on a name-to-name basis).
5. Do you see sick children during the same part of the day as well children and/or do you have separate waiting areas for sick/well children?
6. Will you come to the hospital to check out my newborn?
7. What are your views on YOU NAME IT! (Co-sleeping, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, timeouts/discipline, circumcision, attachment parenting, vaccines, antibiotics, etc.)
8. Will you accept my insurance? Do you charge for calls? Completing sports or camp forms or medical records?
9. Do you plan to stay around this area/practice for some time?