Photo from © istockphoto.com / yacobchuk
Your list of to-dos before baby arrives is seemingly endless—buy a crib, prepare the nursery and go nuts picking sweet little outfits for your mini-me, and that’s just for starters. But few decisions are as important as choosing the right pediatrician. Where do you begin? We’ve got tips to help make your choice easier.
Ask People You Trust
“When looking for a pediatrician, use resources within the community—other parents, your obstetrician, members of your church or area daycare, or call a local children’s hospital,” advises Jacqueline Brunetto, MD, director of pediatric inpatient services at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.
Narrow the Field
Eliminate anyone who doesn’t accept your insurance, isn’t conveniently located or doesn’t practice at the hospital where you’re delivering. Trust us, you don’t want to be driving an hour to an appointment when you’re freaking out about her fever.
Also, find out if the pediatrician is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). A board-certified pediatrician must pass exams, then maintain certification through medical education, regular testing and quality improvement projects.
Schedule a Visit
Most pediatricians welcome the opportunity to meet with expectant parents, answer questions and get updated on any potential health issues with baby. If a doctor won’t meet with you, that’s probably a sign he or she isn’t a good fit.
If you feel strongly about health-related issues, like vaccinations, you should discuss
them with your pediatrician right away, suggests Dr. Brunetto. If you don’t see eye-to-eye, it’s best to find another doctor. After all, you’ll be working together for years to come. “Pediatricians are ‘lifers’—we like to mesh with our families and follow them for generations.”
What Else to Consider
Is the pediatrician solo in the practice? Will the doctor always be available for patients? Who covers for her if not?
If the doctor is part of a large group, are you okay with seeing another member of the group when your child is sick?
Is the office staff friendly and accommodating?
Do the office hours work for you? Are there evening or weekend hours? Where are after-hours emergencies handled—in the office or ER?
How does the doctor handle phone calls? Is there a specific call back time or does the doc handle questions between visits?
On this point, Dr. Brunetto advises, “When parents call the office, they should be honest if they feel they need an urgent callback, or if the call can be handled routinely before the end of the day.”
If you have an older child seeing a new pediatrician for the first time, be sure to tell the doctor if he has chronic health problems or any ongoing physical or emotional needs.
Also ask if the doctor uses telehealth. “With telehealth, doctors use means such as video conferencing, internet and image streaming to communicate ongoing issues,” explains Anne Francis, MD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “This has the advantage of minimizing travel and other disruptions for parents. Many pediatricians are adopting telehealth options to interact with patients and families.”
The Bottom Line
In the end, the real test is how a pediatrician cares for your child and responds to your concerns. “Do you want someone who will tell you what to do or someone who will incorporate your concerns into action?” asks Dr. Francis. “Is this person someone you can trust to give great care to your child?”
Once you’ve made a decision, remember to err on the side of overcommunication about your concerns. “If you’re not happy with any aspect of the treatment you and your child are receiving, you should talk to the pediatrician directly,” recommends Dr. Francis. “If the response doesn’t address your concerns, or if the problem simply can’t be resolved, seek another physician.”
For more tips on what to look for and how to choose a doc, go to healthychildren.org.