A Guide to Finding the {Perfect} Pediatrician

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READING TIME: 4 min.

I officially met my pediatrician before I had my first child, but I knew she was “the one” at my daughter’s one-week checkup. She looked into my tired, red-rimmed eyes—and probably noticed a hint of “what have I done?!” panic— and told me “You’re doing such a great job!” Her kind and sincere words were a balm to my exhausted and overwhelmed soul. Since then, she’s seen my children through multiple injuries and illnesses, and I count her as a trusted member of my motherhood village.

pediatricianMost parents know that finding the perfect pediatrician for their child(ren) is an important to-do item on the checklist, but sometimes it can be difficult to even know where to start. As someone who spent far too much time on this before the arrival of my first, here are my best tips:

Ask seasoned parents for referrals. Nothing beats an old-fashioned personal recommendation. And be sure to ask them what they like and dislike about the pediatrician, staff, and office. Consider the location and driving distance. There will be seasons where it will feel like you are at the doctor’s office every week with a sick child (see: my March), so a long drive will only add to the stress. It’s also worth doing a quick Google search for reviews.

Do your research and decide what is important to you. For example, are you planning on breastfeeding? If so, find out what kind of support and resources the provider offers. Other worthwhile topics include circumcision, antibiotics, and vaccinations.  It’s also worthwhile to ask how much time will be spent with your child during appointments for well visits and check-ups.

Arrange a few prenatal interviews. This can seem quite daunting and even intimidating, but trust me, pediatricians are a kind bunch, and it’s pretty casual. These initial consultations are a great way to see if you and the doctor jive in a low-pressure environment that doesn’t involve your child’s immediate health concerns. I ended up interviewing only one pediatrician because I liked her so much and saw no reason to muddy the waters. Not a fan of the face-to-face interview? Then call the office and ask your questions. Things to consider: is this doctor accepting new patients? What insurance plans do they accept? Do they have separate sick and well waiting rooms? What is the typical wait time? Can they do labs and basic imaging such as X-rays at the office, or will you need a referral?

Ask about policies and fees regarding after-hour/weekend calls and emergency hours. Will you be calling a nurse line when your baby spikes a fever in the wee hours of the morning? Speaking with an on-call physician when you’re concerned about a concussion? Are there charges involved? Do they offer extended evening and weekend hours? If not, what are the policies regarding those inevitable emergency visits?

Consider who will be seeing your child. My pediatrician only works at the office a few days a week, so if one of my kiddos is sick on a day she’s not in, we see the other doctor in the practice. If you’re considering a large practice, it may be harder to see a physician for routine appointments such as well checks and sick visits, and your child is more likely to be seen by a Nurse Practitioner or Physician’s Assistant. If you’re okay with that, great! If not, then maybe a large practice isn’t for you.

Ask yourself, “Do I like and trust this doctor?” All the training, specializations, and certifications in the world are worthless if you’re placing your child under the care of a doctor who you ultimately dislike or distrust. A good pediatrician should be part of your parenting support system; having someone who’s on your team, who can offer reassurance and guidance, is invaluable.

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