How to Find a Pediatrician
Your pediatrician will have a significant role to play in helping your child get off to a healthy start, as well as continuing to remain healthy throughout their childhood. Most pediatricians treat a patient from infancy through to young adulthood (roughly age 18), so this is a person who is going to be part of your family's life for some time. With this in mind, it is wise to be selective about the person you select for this role. As a parent, you certainly want someone caring for your child with the same care and compassion you as a parent would provide.
If possible, begin your search before your baby is born. If your situation is such that you are looking for a pediatrician for an older child, perhaps due to a move, begin your search as soon as you realize you are going to need to make a change. Sometimes the search for the right practice or the right individual can be longer than anticipated or require more work than you initially planned. Below are a few steps you may want to consider when searching for the right person for the job.
As noted above, the ideal time to begin your search is before your child is born. This gives you ample time to research who is in the area and it gives you time to review your options without feeling rushed. Start a few months before your due date, but keep in mind that babies do not always follow a planned arrival schedule. The ideal goal is to have selected your pediatrician before delivery so they can be there to examine your child within 24 hours of delivery.
The first step in research is to begin gathering names. Make a list. Write names down and ask friends or co-workers who have young children or infants for recommendations. You could also inquire with your obstetrician to see if they have any suggestions. Other sources for information are your local hospital, medical center, or even your insurance company website.
Do Your Research
This person will be a crucial fixture in the life of your child for many years, so this is not a decision to make without careful research into each potential candidate. Take a moment to look into things, such as their certifications.
Another place to go for information about your potential pediatrician is the various rating websites on the internet. These sites rank pediatricians (and other doctors) based on things like education, time in service, patient feedback and professional accolades. Patient reviews can be highly valuable in the decision-making process. These are the opinions and experiences of the people who have dealt with the provider first hand, however, do not use these reviews as your only decision guiding factor. Keep in mind these reviews cannot always be verified and some of the opinions or information provided may be skewed heavily based on the person’s experience.
Another question to ask at this time is whether the provider is taking new patients or if they have a waiting list. Depending on your time frame, you may or may not be inclined to add your name to a waitlist. This decision is personal and will depend on whether you feel comfortable with the chance you may not have secured a provider at the time of delivery.
Narrow Your List
After you have gathered names and looked thoroughly into each potential provider, you should have narrowed your list to a few likely prospects. Now is the time to call their offices and ask practical questions that will help you make your final decisions. If possible, make an appointment to visit the doctor in person to speak to them. This can be highly valuable in helping you to determine if you feel comfortable with them. Regardless of their skill and qualification, if they have a presence that puts you in a state of unease, you will not feel comfortable with them caring for your child. This type of information can only be gathered through a face to face meeting with the provider.
Questions to Ask
What are the office hours of the practice? Do they have urgent care options? How about same-day appointments or walk-in options? Unfortunately, children do not always get sick on a planned schedule, and the first few months of a child's life can be filled with anxiety and concerning situations for a new parent. During these moments, you will want to make sure you can turn to your pediatrician for advice. If they are largely unavailable except by appointment, they may not be the correct provider for you.
Who is the provider or practice affiliated with? Are they linked to a more extensive hospital network? Are they a private practice? Sometimes providers who are connected to larger organizations can offer more options in terms of appointments, specialists, or other needed options.
Time in Practice
How long has this provider been in practice? How many babies have they cared for? It will be up to you to determine if you are comfortable with choosing a provider who is relatively new to pediatrics or if you prefer someone who has been in the field for several years.
Above all, remember, this is not a "permanent" decision. A lot of work goes into selecting a pediatrician you feel is right for you and your child, but in the end, they may not be a match after all. You are making this decision for both yourself and someone who has yet to be born. Therefore, it is rather hard to determine if they will "click" with the provider you have chosen. During the first few visits with your pediatrician after your baby is born, pay attention to how the doctor interacts with your child. This will allow you to assess how the doctor interacts with your child and how your child reacts to the doctor. As time passes, your child will develop a bond with their pediatrician that is different from that of their parents. You want them to be as comfortable as possible.