Trying to decide who will take care of your child when they are sick, injured, or growing can be a daunting task. This person will be an essential caregiver and overseer of your child’s health and wellness for the next 18 years. Where do you start when searching for a pediatrician?
Here are some helpful tips and things to keep in mind while searching for a pediatrician.
Ask For Recommendations
The best place to start is with people you know and trust. Ask your friends and family (if they live nearby, of course) who they take their kids to. You will probably get a wide variety of answers.
Here are some follow-up questions to help narrow down your options:
- Is it easy to schedule appointments? What about last-minute illness visits?
- Is the waiting room kid-oriented?
- Is the staff patient and professional?
- What is the wait time like?
- Do the appointments feel rushed?
- Does the doctor show empathy?
- Does the doctor express genuine interest in your child?
- Does the doctor take the time to explain things in a way you understand?
- Does the doctor truly listen to your concerns and talk to you about them?
- Does the office return calls well?
- If you’re having a baby, will the pediatrician do the first check-up at the hospital?
Does the Office Offer After Hours Care?
What do you do when your child gets sick or injured after normal office hours or on the weekend (since that’s always when things happen!)? Find out where a provider recommends you go. Is there an urgent care close by? What are the hours? What is the wait time like? Can you check-in online? Be sure you know what steps to take in a non-emergency situation.
Know the Difference – Family Doctor vs Pediatric
Decide if seeing a pediatrician versus a family doctor is important to you. Often, a practice will have many family doctors and one pediatrician on staff. The main difference between the two is that a pediatrician specializes in children, while a family doctor can take care of people for their entire lives.
Related: Finding an OB-GYN: What to Consider When Choosing Prenatal Care
Choosing a family doctor means you won’t have to switch doctors when your child ages out of a pediatrician’s specialty. But a pediatrician is specially trained to take care of your children, so this may be a more comfortable option, especially if you’re a new parent.
Credentials and Experience
You will likely be able to find their credentials and experience on the practice’s website. Check and see if they are a board-certified pediatrician. This will tell you that they went the extra mile, as board certification is optional. The certification will tell you that this pediatrician indicates proficiency in the following areas:
- Communication Skills
- Medical Knowledge
- Patient Care
If they aren’t board-certified, it doesn’t mean that they lack the above traits. So don’t write off a highly recommended pediatrician based solely on their certifications. Listen to your family, friends, the office staff, and especially your own instincts.
Consider the Office Staff
Keep in mind, the doctor won’t be the only person who helps your child. If the doctor has a Nurse Practitioner (NP), you may see them as often as you see the doctor. Well Child Visits are often scheduled with the NP, not the pediatrician. Check into these policies.
You will interact more often with the office staff and nurses, so take care to note how they treat you and your child as well. The nurses will be the ones administering shots, checking height and weight, plus handling initial questions. The office staff will be scheduling appointments and helping with billing questions. These are important people to pay attention to as well.
A few questions you may want to ask before scheduling include:
- When are the first and last appointments for the day?
- When do you schedule well-child visits?
- Are there other nurses/doctors your child can see when they are sick our primary doctor isn’t available?
- How far in advance can I schedule appointments?
Confirm Insurance – When Searching for a Pediatrician
Before you go signing on to a provider, be sure to confirm that they accept your insurance. Check that they are an in-network provider as well, or you will end up possibly paying larger co-pays or even having to meet a deductible first.
Be on the Same Page
It’s important to find out where your pediatrician stands on issues that are important to you. You should know whether they will be supportive of your family’s choices and your preferences. Here are most of the controversial topics that are important to parents:
Be sure you know where you stand on these issues and discuss them with the pediatrician. Keep in mind, they will be prescribing care based on their opinions, so make sure you’re on the same page.
Location, Location, Location
As you research pediatricians in your area and hear recommendations from others, keep in mind the importance of the location. Look up the distance from your home to the office and decide what how large of a radius you’re comfortable with. For us, it was important to have a pedestrian within a 10-minute drive just in case the kids get ill and we need to get there quickly.
You may want to do a test drive and see where the office is located. Check and see what the parking situation is like. If you aren’t comfortable with a parking garage, for example, it may be something to take into consideration.
Listen to Your Instincts – When Searching for a Pediatrician
When you have met the pediatrician, nurse practitioner, nurses, and office staff, take time to consider those interactions. Did anything bother you? Is there a nagging doubt? Trust your instincts and try out a different provider. You aren’t locked into any one pediatrician just because you have seen them once or twice.
Make sure you are happy with your experience! You don’t want to spend the next 18 years dreading the next time you have to call or visit the office. Keep in mind, if you don’t like something about the people or environment, your children watch you for cues and will also have a hard time.
Choose a pediatrician and practice that makes you feel comfortable and important. They should be attentive, helpful, and make both you and your child feel safe. Don’t be afraid to switch, if things change. You are never locked in forever. It can be a pain to start over, but being happy with your pediatrician will be worth it in the long run.