Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finding a Pediatrician

It's been a while since I posted anything. Hopefully I can start this up again.
Since several friends and family members are expecting, I thought I'd write some helpful articles for expecting parents. This one is about choosing a pediatrician.

I think people spend more time researching and trying out strollers than in selecting their pediatrician which is crazy. Any mom will tell you that you will be spending a lot of time in the pediatrician's office, especially that first year, so choose wisely! But remember, you can change at any time if you're not happy.

A good place to start is by asking trusted friends and family members for the names of their pediatricians. Then start making calls to find out which ones accept your insurance. This will narrow down the list. Once you have a couple of options, call the office and let them know that you are expecting and would like to set up an appointment for a tour of the office and to meet one (or more) of the pediatricians. Here are some things you should look for:

When you call the main number, who answers the phone? Is it a live person or a recording? I can tell you that when you have a sick newborn in your arms or are worried and calling about a child with a high fever, the last thing you want to do is listen to 5 options before talking to someone.

I love that my Pediatrician's office always has live staff answering the phone during office hours. And whoever answers the phone can take care of whatever I need - make an appointment, fax a prescription, ask a medical question, etc.

Meeting with the doctor

You want to be able to interview the doctor and get to know his/her demeanor. Are they attentive? Do they seem hurried? Do they have a caring bedside manner or are they more down to business? There are no "right" answers. Everyone is different so it's a matter of what style you prefer.

Some questions you may want to ask:
How do you feel about breastfeeding? What if the baby is gaining weight slowly at first?
How do you feel about vaccines? What do you think about parents who choose to delay or stagger vaccines?
Do you think pacifiers are helpful or hurtful? (Again the idea here is not so much to get a right answer but to see how the doctor responds.)
What's your position on antibiotics? (You will find that there are some doctors who are super conservative and will reserve prescribing antibiotics only under extreme circumstances. On the other hand, you will find doctors who think the only reason you bring in your sick child is to get a prescription and they are quick to write one.)

The Office
For me, the office staff is almost MORE important than the actual Doctor. You spend a lot of time dealing with the staff and it's a much better experience when your pediatrician is part of a smooth running office. So be sure to ask these questions:
Do you have weekend hours? (My pediatrician's office is open on Saturdays 8:30 - 12:30 and Sunday mornings for emergencies)

If I call the office with a need to be seen by the doctor, will I be seen that same day?

Will I be seen by the same doctor I usually go to? (Amazingly, the office I go to has a way of blocking time which always leaves room open for same day appointments. 9 times out of 10 I see my usual pediatrician even for last minute appointments)

Who returns calls after hours? (My first pediatrician group always had the doctor on call returning calls. The only thing I don't really like about my current pediatrician is that they have a nurse's service returning calls after hours. If I HAD to speak to a doctor I probably could but it's not the norm)

Are there separate waiting rooms for sick vs. well children? (My pediatrician's office has 3 waiting rooms - sick children, well children over 2 and well children under 2)

Another note about waiting rooms. Although you might think it's great to see a waiting room with lots of toys for the kids to play with, think again. The last thing you want your kids to do is touch stuff at the doctor's office!

You can find lists of additional questions on parenting web sites like this one:

The first time the pediatrician will see your baby is at the hospital, probably the day after the baby is born (maybe the same day). So you definitely want to make your decision sometime in the last trimester, but don't wait too long. Those last few weeks are always very busy! Good luck!


Albert said...

great post.

Valentina said...

We've chosen one based on my OB's recommendation (his daughter sees the same ped). I asked the questions I could, but I'm afraid it won't be until I try him out that I'll really know if he is right for us.
Thanks for the post! I didn't realize how stressful it would feel to find a doctor for the baby.