How to Choose the Right Pediatrician
Gerald B. Rakos, Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Director, Division of Neonatology and FAAP, Stamford Hospital
Your baby’s on the way and now you’re wondering how to address the question: “How do I find the right pediatrician?” This is big step and, understandably, you want someone you can trust and get to know.
So what’s the best way to start? Many times, the best referrals come from your close friends, colleagues and OB/GYN who are likely parents themselves. Another place to look for a list of board -certified practitioners is the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)’s HealthyChildren.org website. Once you have a short list of names, it’s time to investigate further to see what’s right for you and your soon-to-be family. Make sure everyone on your short list participates in your insurance plan. The following guidelines may help:
1. Give yourself enough time.
It’s generally a good idea to embark on your pediatrician search at the end of your second trimester or beginning of your third trimester. That way, you won’t be running around too much as your due date gets closer. You’ll also have peace of mind knowing you’ve secured a doctor for your child, with time to spare.
2. You’re their client. Interview them.
To help make your decision, ask the following questions.
A. What’s your philosophy on… ?
This can include his or her views on circumcision, breast feeding, immunization, behavioral health issues and more. It’s important that you align fundamentally with the provider of your child. This will help you determine if you “click.”
B. How are visits for acute illnesses handled?
If your child has a sore throat, cold, or a potential ear infection, for example, can you make an appointment on short notice? Are there walk-in hours?
C. How do you typically handle emergencies or hospitalizations? If you’re not on-call, who cares for my child?
You’ll want to be well prepared in the event of any unforeseen circumstances. Of course, if it’s a true emergency, we recommend bringing your child to the emergency department. If your child is staying in the hospital, your pediatrician should explain to you how care teams are assigned and what you can expect. Most pediatricians today have hospital -based pediatricians called hospitalists who care for children while they are staying in the hospital.
D. Do you have any specialized training?
While not a requirement, it may be beneficial to know if you think your child has special needs.
E. Will we go over how my child is growing and reaching developmental milestones? What do you normally look for at “well-baby” checkups?
As your baby grows into a kid, you and your doctor will want to keep tabs on how he or she is developing from all angles.
3. Strategic location.
While not necessarily a deal breaker, location is definitely an important factor to consider in this decision. So if possible, choose a practice in a central location and not too far from home. Is it a quick ride from work? Daycare? School? Is it near the hospital? How is the office set up? Are there separate waiting rooms for sick and well patients?
4. Go ahead, ask other parents.
While you visit various pediatric offices, don’t hesitate to chat with other parents in the waiting rooms to get a sense of their feeling about the doctor, practice and overall environment. Strike conversation casually and see if they’re open to sharing. It can’t hurt!
5. Time for some self-reflection.
No matter what course of action you take in choosing a pediatrician, make sure your concerns are addressed and your comfort is always top of mind. Is this the case? Be honest with yourself, above all.