A trusted doctor is an essential part of keeping your child healthy as they grow and develop. Choosing a pediatrician for your child is one of the first and most important decisions you make as a parent. But many new parents are not sure how to choose a physician or what questions to ask.
Finding a pediatrician isn't difficult, but starting as soon as possible checks a key item off your to do list in time to make an informed decision before baby's arrival.
There are many considerations, including a pediatrician's training and experience, as well as their office's location, hours and routines. Here are some helpful hints to find a quality doctor who is a good fit for you and your baby.
What is a pediatrician?
A pediatrician, family medicine doctor or pediatric nurse practitioner can be your baby's primary care provider. Here, we are focusing on pediatricians, who specialize in the care of babies, children and teens.
All medical doctors complete four years of medical school. To become specialized in pediatrics, they complete three additional years of training. Most pediatricians then become board-certified by passing a comprehensive test from the American Board of Pediatrics.
Many pediatricians work together in a group practice with other pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners, who are nurses with additional training in pediatric care. Other members of the healthcare team include nurses, laboratory technicians and administrative staff who handle scheduling and billing.
What care does a pediatrician provide?
Pediatricians care for children from birth until adulthood. In addition to treating life's inevitable illnesses and injuries, they provide regularly scheduled well-child care, including immunizations.
Pediatricians can also advise on issues with feeding, growth, development, discipline and more. Another service they provide is connecting you to any additional specialists that might be needed over the years, from lactation consultants to help with breastfeeding, to pediatric cardiologists and others who provide care in very specific areas of pediatric health.
How do I find a good pediatrician?
A combination of reliable recommendations and online research can help narrow your focus to a few top prospects. Ask people you trust, like your obstetrician, neighbors and friends. Use web searches to find pediatricians in your area and look into reviews. You can also get a list of doctors from your insurance company and hospitals or healthcare systems, including this Novant Health online search tool.
How do I choose the right pediatrician?
Now, you can explore several options in depth to compare them and see who's the best fit for your family.
Meeting two or three prospective pediatricians during pregnancy lets you experience the office firsthand and see which doctor you feel the most comfortable with. Talking with several pediatricians provides a sense of whether you connect with them and share a similar philosophy of health and parenting.
Most pediatricians offer special times for parents to see the office, ask questions and meet doctors. Known as a prenatal, introductory or expectant parent visit, many do not charge for this time. This is a great opportunity to feel out the office and interact with doctors to see if they are right for you.
Here are key considerations to find the best pediatrician for your child:
You will be spending a lot of time at the pediatrician, especially in those early months, so location and access are key. And who wants to drag a sick kid across town if there are good doctors close by?
- Is the office near your home and/or childcare facility?
- How long does it take to get there during rush hour?
- Is parking (and then toting all your stuff inside) convenient?
- Does the practice have more than one office?
- If so, how often is your desired pediatrician at your location?
- If so, do they have different services or amenities (lactation consultants, weekend sick visits, evening hours, etc.)?
Anything a doctor's office does to make your life easier is a huge perk. Look for features that provide convenience, accessibility and affordability.
- What are the office hours?
- Are there weekend and/or evening hours?
- How do you make an appointment?
- How long does it take to get a well-child appointment?
- How long does it take to get a sick-child appointment?
- Which pediatricians are on your insurance plan?
- Which hospital(s) are they affiliated with and are they compatible with your insurance?
- What about payments and billing?
- How long do you have to wait in the office before you are seen?
- Is there a separate waiting area for sick children?
- Does the office staff seem friendly and interested in children?
In addition to a pediatrician's education and/or experience, evaluate if they are someone you feel comfortable with. Having someone you trust to care for and advise about your child's health and well-being can make going to the doctor a help instead of a headache.
- What is their training and experience?
- Do he or she have any specialties or area of interest?
- Are they board-certified, and has be or she re-certified recently?
- How does their philosophy of care align with yours? This can include opinions on use of medications (antibiotics and over-the-counter), immunizations, etc.
- Do they have children?
- Does he or she prescribe medications over the phone?
- If it's a group practice, will your child see the same pediatrician for all visits?
- If so, how do you feel about the other doctors?
- What happens if your child gets sick in the night or on weekends?
The best pediatrician is the right pediatrician for your family
The good news is that there are quality doctors out there to choose from. Once you're satisfied with a pediatrician's merit, take the time to find someone you connect with and explore any conveniences their clinic offers. Your child's doctor should be someone you trust and feel comfortable discussing questions and issues with. Talking with other parents about their experiences and recommendations is a huge help.
There is a night and day difference between the experiences of parents who love versus those who don't like their pediatrician. If you start with one doctor and aren't happy, don't be afraid to try others to find a better fit for your family. Having a trusted partner in your child's health through the years is priceless.
Finding the right pediatric provider doesn't have to be difficult, try our pediatric search tool today.