“How do I choose a pediatrician for my children.”
This is a question parents should think long and hard about because it’s an important one — for them AND for their kids. Aside from practical questions — “Where are you located?”; “What are your hours?”; “Do you take my insurance?” — there are other questions that parents should ask as well, the most important being:
“What do I expect from my pediatrician?”
I hope parents expect a lot, because pediatricians have a lot to offer to children and families in times of sickness and in times of health. Parents should expect the following from their pediatrician:
- Commitment: 18 years is a long time! Your doctor(s) and office staff will be there for the duration! (And maybe even longer!)
- Attention: Pediatricians want to get to know your family — not to be a friend, but to be an advocate for your children.
- Patience: We need to listen to you! And we need to respond to you in a way that reassures you that we have listened. A good doctor should end every visit by asking, “Do you have any questions?”
- Knowledge: We may not be rocket scientists, but pediatricians are pretty smart. Ask about our education and training and you’ll find that most of us are cut from similar cloth: We follow the same practice guidelines, observe the same standards of care, and became pediatricians because we love kids.
- Humility: We don’t know everything, but we continue to learn something new every day. In fact, pediatricians learn the most from the kids we see and the parents who bring them.
- Humor: A good laugh never hurt anyone, right? Even a friendly smile is good medicine for children and parents who hurt.
I recently surveyed Pediatric Alliance physicians for answers to the question, “How do I choose a pediatrician?” Here is what some of them had to say:
“The most important factor in choosing your pediatrician is to find someone you really trust. Once you have a child one feels such a sense of responsibility for their welfare. You want every decision you make to be right — what car seat to get, how do I feed my child, what about vaccines? — so it’s important to find a doctor you trust and connect with. Ask your friends with kids who they use and go meet with the doctor to see if you ‘connect’ with them.”
— Dr. Kathy Walczak, Chartiers/McMurray
“First make sure that the pediatrician is board certified and licensed. I think that the prenatal interview is very important. You need to make sure that this is a person that you could work with, who has similar views and attitudes. Ask about the pediatrician’s interests: Does he/she focus on wellness and diet, development and behavior, asthma and allergies, or other more specific sub-topics of pediatrics? Ask: Who answers the phone? How easy is it to get advice or make an appointment? Can you get the doc to call you back?”
— Dr. Joe Aracri, Greentree
“I think there are three key factors a parent should consider in looking for a pediatrician:
First, access and availability concerns. If the pediatrician’s office is far from home or place of work and takes a significant amount of driving/traffic to get there, that practice may not be the best. Parents of newborns often don’t realize how many visits there are in the first two years for well checks alone, not considering any sick visits. For working parents, a practice that has early morning/evening/Saturday hours may be a better option than one that does not.
Secondly, parents should make sure that their pediatrician follows routine recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, such as vaccination schedules, developmental guidelines and screening recommendations. If parents are considering delaying vaccines or not vaccinating altogether, they should pick a practice that is open to this to avoid conflict early on.
Finally, personality compatibility. This is where picking a practice with multiple providers can be helpful. Every provider has a different style and opinion when it comes to raising your child. If you start with a practice and the first doctor you see does not meet your needs as far as advice/customer service, etc. is concerned, I suggest trying someone else in the group for your next visit. If you have been through all of the doctors and you still aren’t satisfied with the care, then it is time to change groups. With as many pediatricians as there are out there, there is no sense in being unhappy with regards to your child’s healthcare provider.
Most practices offer prenatal visits and I do encourage my friends to take advantage of them. It gives you a chance to see the office, determine what travel time will be like, feel out the customer service strengths of the staff, and learn more about the doctors.”
— Dr. Mary Pagnotto, Northland
Tomorrow on The PediaBlog: “Choosing a Pediatrician — Part 2.”