choose a pediatrician
© / PeopleImages

Choosing the right pediatrician for your child is a big decision you’ll need to make before your baby is born. How can you make sure to make the right choice for your family? We asked Theresa Giannattasio, DO, FAAP, Lead Physician, Atlantic Medical Group Pediatrics at Florham Park, what to consider.

NJF: What’s the most important thing to consider when choosing a pediatrician for your baby?

Dr. Theresa Giannattasio:  The most important thing when choosing a pediatrician is trust. Parenthood is a journey and we’re here to help. The years of training and subsequent practice are what we bring to the table as medical professionals; you as the parent bring your intuition and innate ability to be a good parent. When there is a solid patient- doctor relationship built on trust each visit is focused on furthering the health and well-being of that child, creating a foundation of good health.

NJF: How do you find a good pediatrician?

TG: Word of mouth is often the easiest way to find a doctor but there are other ways—especially if you’re new in town. Local medical societies and hospitals have referral services. Your insurance provider can also generate some resources that you can research further. School nurses, real estate agents and the local chamber of commerce/welcome wagons may also have readily available resources and referrals.

When choosing a pediatrician it’s important to consider location and the distance you will travel to the office. How many doctors are in the practice? Is there a way to easily get a hold of a doctor to ask a non-urgent question? What are after-hours services like?

NJF: Why should you schedule a ‘get to know you’ visit with the pediatrician?

TG: A “get to know you” or prenatal visit is a nice way to meet your pediatrician and get a feel of their personality and perspective when it comes to medicine.  How they respond to your questions and the resulting conversation can often tell you if it’s a good fit. It’s a time to ask questions about vaccine policies, after-hours availability and general questions. While you may not have a lot of questions just yet, this visit can help you find out if your personalities mesh well just by having a conversation.

NJF: How can you make sure care is consistent if you are seen in a practice with multiple docs?

TG: In practices with multiple doctors it is important to get to know all the doctors in the practice. You may have a primary pediatrician who you schedule well visits with on a regular basis to keep consistency. Most practices will have an integrated network or electronic medical record which makes sharing of information easier between visits and doctors. Vital information regarding allergies and major illnesses will be part of the medical record that all doctors can see. Sick visits and emergency visits may necessitate seeing another doctor in the practice but good communication will keep consistency.

NJF: What about the front desk—what should you be looking for when interacting with them?

TG: Front desk staff is often the first representative that you’ll meet from a practice. Look for them to be courteous, efficient and to know where to direct your questions. They are often able to anticipate you and your child’s needs such as referrals, school notes and messages to the doctor, etc.

NJF: How do you know if you’re clicking (or not) with a pediatrician you’re considering?

TG: Oftentimes you will just know if you are not clicking with someone. If you feel like your questions are not being answered or your more urgent concerns are not being addressed, bring them up to the pediatrician. There may be fundamental differences in what you expect and what is provided—if there is a disconnect it may be time to find another pediatrician.

NJF: What are pediatricians’ offices doing currently in terms of COVID protocols?

TG: All pediatric practices have taken great strides to keep families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most offices have separated sick and well visits by time and physical space. There is careful screening of all patients for sick and well visits as a large part of our patient population cannot be vaccinated yet. Our office like many others has utilized air filters and PPE to minimize the risk of exposure to patients. As with every pediatric office, vigorous disinfection and cleaning procedures remain in place.