When you are expecting your first child, there are numerous decisions to be made. Nursery colors, diaper brands. The list seems endless. Choosing which pediatrician will care for your sweet newborn should be near the top of the list. Your pediatrician not only manages your child’s medical and developmental well-being, but he or she will likely be your best source of parenting advice and often, the voice of reason, in this crazy world of parenting. How do you choose the right person to fill this important role? Here are some questions to consider when choosing your child’s pediatrician.
How close are they to my home?
Location is a very important factor to consider when choosing your child’s doctor. You will be going there for frequent check-ups, especially within the first year, and you don’t want to schlep across town each time you have a well-child appointment or an ill visit.
Is the doctor in a solo or group practice? If they are in a group, how do I feel about other docs in the group?
Most physicians are in a group, and it is important for you to feel comfortable with every person of that group. For an ill visit, you may not be able to see your regular doctor, and you will want to have confidence in the medical decisions of each member of the team–not just your own pediatrician.
How are “after hours” questions handled? Is it a nurse, a nurse practitioner or a doctor answering the phone?
It is very important for you to have a way of discussing urgent concerns with someone at your pediatrician’s office at any time of the day or night. Find out how your doctor’s office handles after-hours calls. It is very reasonable to have a nurse taking the after-hours calls, but the nurse should have a way of getting in touch with the doctor or nurse practitioner if the concern warrants it.
What are their office hours? Do they have evening and weekend appointments?
Availability for ill visits is a must. When your child is sick, it is best to see your pediatrician or one of their partners for an ill visit (rather than an urgent care or ER), since they know your child best and have the most reliable medical information about your child. If they do not have expanded hours, it may make it difficult to get in for an ill visit.
How does their personality match with yours?
Choosing a doctor is a little like matchmaking. You want someone who clicks with your style. Do you prefer more hand-holding? Do you like the matter-of-fact approach? It is best to try to meet with your potential doctors to determine whether or not you are a fit with them. It is also helpful to talk to friends. Find out why they chose their pediatrician and what they like or don’t like about their doctor.
What is the doctor’s stance on hot topics that you may feel strongly about (i.e. sleep routines, the family bed, vaccines)?
Pediatricians, of course, advocate for vaccines in children (and hopefully you do too–see this great post about vaccines for more information), but there are many offices that have a strict policy about vaccines, and it is important for you to be aware of this up front. What are their recommendations for successful sleep habits? If they adhere to the “cry it out” philosophy of sleep, but you are more of an attachment parenting advocate, chances are you will not click with that particular pediatrician.
This is not a complete list questions, but it is a start and certainly includes some of the key topics to cover with potential pediatricians. It really boils down to confidence and trust in your pediatrician and their office staff. So, get a list of doctors from your insurance company, start calling those practices, and check one more thing off your to do list.