Selecting a pediatrician can be a daunting task. After all, if you choose wisely, this is a relationship that should follow your child into adulthood, so you certainly want to pick the right one. But for parents who have recently relocated or new parents, especially, how do you even know where to start?
Ask your friends
I think soliciting your friends and family for recommendations is the best place to start because they have had personal interaction with their child’s physician and can speak from experience. After that, I am a big fan of a meet-and-greet with your potential pediatrician. Identify some in your area that have been recommended to you that you think might be a good match. Then call the office and set up a time to go in and meet the doctor. Go in and just talk to them. It doesn’t have to be masked as a well visit for your child.
Most pediatricians in the United States have the appropriate training, so use this as a time to see if you can build a relationship. Ask yourself: ‘Did they make eye contact?’ ‘Do I feel comfortable with them?’ ‘Did they answer my questions?’
You can get a sense of these things even in a five-minute meeting.
Interview potential pediatricians
I know what you are thinking… you’re thinking ‘how in the world am I going to get in to see a pediatrician for five minutes when I am not even the parent of a patient?’ This again should be a sign as to whether or not this is a doctor you want looking after your child. If the office won’t allow you to come in and meet the pediatrician; that is something you need to pay attention to. Hopefully, this is the start of a lifelong relationship, so I hope offices would be willing to schedule these meetings. Some may not, but in my opinion, the meet and greet is the best way to get a sense of whether or not this is the right pediatrician, because the relationship is such a key factor in the care of your child.
Look for warning signs
We feel the relationship is so important. Personally, I feel strongly about it and if a doctor’s office is too busy to value that initial meeting; that would concern me. It only has to be five or 10 minutes in order for you to get a feeling and have an opportunity to ask some important questions.
Two questions that come up a lot when I meet with parents of potential new patients include my stance on the use of antibiotics and vaccinations.
Antibiotic use is an important topic to cover, especially if you have strong feelings one way or the other. Ask your potential pediatrician what their stance is on that. Some doctors will prescribe them at the drop of a hat and others will show more concern for resistance to them and be slower to prescribe them.
With vaccinations, the issue is two-fold. Again, if you feel very strongly pro- or anti-vaccinations, you need to discuss this. Most pediatricians will be pro-vaccination for many reasons. But if a family is pro-vaccination and they don’t ask and the pediatrician isn’t, their children could be exposed to some serious illnesses in their waiting room.
Other important questions to ask
Some other important questions I recommend asking are whether or not a pediatrician will see your newborn in the hospital. Some will and some won’t, so if that is important to you, you should certainly ask.
Also, what is the availability of them or their office in the event of an emergency? Nobody expects their child to only get sick during regular business hours, but how does a particular office handle after-hours situations? It’s an important thing to ask, because each practice is going to have a somewhat different answer.
So once you have gotten some of the particulars out of the way, don’t be afraid to lean on your gut reaction. I am here to tell you that you can still expect to have a relationship with your child’s pediatrician. You may not get a house call like you could 50 years ago, but it doesn’t have to feel like you are just a number, either. Again, this depends on your preference. If you just simply want the best person to care for your child and their bedside manner is irrelevant to you, then that should be a factor when you make your decision. But as a pediatrician, I feel it is important to provide the right care, but the relationship transcends that. You should feel like they care about your child. I think it can be done and should be done.