Pediatricians are so much more than a just your baby’s doctor, they become confidants, guides, encouragers, honest opinions and friendly faces. Trying to find the right pediatrician can be a dance; you need to dodge the docs that don’t jive with your parenting philosophy while holding on to the doctor that makes you feel cared for and listened to. During those crazy first months with a newborn, you’ll visit the pediatrician often. And after that, you’ll be there for annual well visits and for any health issues that come up throughout the year. You need someone you trust and someone who trusts your maternal instincts. So, what should you look for when searching for the perfect pediatrician? Here are a few of our tips for narrowing down the field.
photo: Julie Seguss
1. Check your network.
It sounds easy enough, but don’t forget to be sure that your pediatrician of choice is in your health insurance network. Even better, be sure that your pediatrician of choice has access and rights at your preferred hospital. If you live in a large city or suburb, the hospital closest to you may not be one that your pediatrician is affiliated with; while it may not be a big deal if you have a healthy child, it can cause problems if you need your pediatrician to follow your child in the hospital.
2. Choose whether you want to see aractice or an individual.
Decide if you prefer a practice, meaning a group of pediatricians, or an individual doctor. There are certainly benefits to both, but with a practice you are increasing your chances of getting an appointment quickly when needed, at hours that fit your busy schedule.
3. Convenience is key.
During the first year of your child’s life, you are at the doctor’s office a lot. A lot. Between immunizations and well baby checks, you are going to become besties with your pediatrician’s receptionist. Add in a few sick visits, and you will have more appointments with the pediatrician than you have date nights with your hubs. Since you will be spending a lot of time there, pick an office that is relatively close and accessible to you. Trust us, you’ll appreciate not having to drive across town and park two blocks away in the middle of winter when your child has a fever.
4. Ask for recommendations.
Rally your mom friends to ask for pediatrician recommendations. Sure, you’ll hear good things and bad things about nearly every practice you’re considering, but getting the experiences of your pals will help you make a more solid decision.
photo via Cheryl on Flickr
5. Take a test drive.
Many times, pediatricians will have open-house events for expecting parents. Use this time to meet the doctors, find out their policies and see if they appear to be a match for your parenting style and preferences. You’ll learn what makes the office standout too: Do they have separate entrances for sick and well patients, what do the exam rooms look like, and can they do the latest tests right in the office?
6. Look at special services.
Some pediatrician offices have specialists on staff that may come in handy during your child’s early years. Look for offices that have a lactation consultant on staff, or practices that have allergy specialists. Nursing or not, allergies or not, these staff members can be invaluable assets when you do need them.
7. Dial in.
Ask about the office’s phone call policy. Some practices are strict about not walking through issues on the phone, but prefer parents to bring the child into the office. However, sometimes you may just need a few questions answered via phone instead of schlepping your infant carrier into the office. Ask if there are nurses available to answer reasonable questions via phone.
8. Check the clock.
Take a look at the hours of the offices you are investigating, and make sure those match with your schedule. Practices often have the luxury of having more evening and weekend hours, but be sure that your office has hours that you can actually swing with work and other obligations.
9. Emergency, emergency.
Emergencies are going to happen, and you are going to have questions in the middle of the night. We may know of a certain story of a two-year-old swallowing a rock while giving it a bath in the tub and a certain daddy freaking out about it and paging the pediatrician after hours to determine if said rock would pass on its own. Weird things are going to happen, and scary things (like your first real fever) are going to happen; you are going to need after-hours support. Ask about your office’s pager policy and any restrictions that may make you feel uncomfortable.
10. Feel the vibe.
Sometimes, when it comes down to it, your intuition will guide you to the office that feels like home. Sure, you want a well-respected and experienced doctor, but you also want someone who can offer a deep breath when you are freaking out and a high-five when you need one.
Take the time to find the right pediatrician for your family. You will be glad that you did, especially when your toddler swallows a rock in the bathtub.