Many experts agree that the best time to start searching for a pediatrician is while you are still pregnant. However, choosing a pediatrician for your baby can be a daunting task as it would entail a lot of research work as well as legwork. Having the time, perseverance and strong reasons should be enough to help you find your future health care soul mate.
You can start by compiling a list of candidates around four months prior to your due date. Some parents choose to take their baby to a pediatrician while others would prefer a family practitioner. It would be time-saving if at the very start, you already know what type of practitioner you want for your baby.
Pediatrician vs. Family Physician
A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in the care of children from birth through adolescence. His primary focus is on preventive health care. The care that pediatricians normally provide includes physical, emotional and mental support.
Family physicians train in several areas and are qualified to care for patients of all ages. Taking your child to a family physician will ensure that he gets a type of care that can continue even when he has become an adult. Moreover, a family physician can also provide care to all the members in your family. He will know the medical histories of each member and even become aware of your family’s social and emotional issues.
Start from referrals
A good way to start finding a pediatrician for your baby is to ask for referrals. You can get a number of referrals by asking your friends, family members and even your prenatal care provider.
If you’re new to the community, you may seek for a list of local pediatricians from a nearby hospital, medical school or county medical society.
If you’re a managed care plan member, you may be required to choose a pediatrician from a list of approved network of practitioners.
It’s really up to you on how many names you would want to include in your list. Once you have your list ready, you can start coming up with a set of criteria on how to choose and arrive at a decision.
Criteria for choosing
At this stage, it may be helpful to keep a sound balance between making a decision subjectively and using professional credentials as a major priority in choosing. Bear in mind that while it may sound obvious that looking for the best pediatrician in your area is ideal, what you should actually give more focus on is if the pediatrician will be the best one for your baby.
Here are some of the things that you may want to consider prior to choosing a pediatrician.
- if the pediatrician’s office is in a good location
- if there is ample parking space
- if the office hours are convenient and would work with your schedule
- if the hospital that the pediatrician is affiliated with is both convenient and reputable
- if the pediatrician is in a solo or in a group practice
- if the pediatrician also has children
- if the pediatrician has enough credentials
- if the telephone in his office is easy to access
- if you want a pediatrician who’s male or a female and if you want someone younger, older, or at the same age like you
- if the pediatrician’s office has an official website where you can read a number of testimonials
Interviewing your prospect
Once you have identified your criteria, it will be easier to narrow down your list and come up with a more organized and a more credible lineup of potential candidates.
In order to get to know your prospective pediatrician better, you can set up a face-to-face meeting and conduct an interview. It’s important that you know the right questions to ask along with some topics or questions that you should avoid during the interviewing process.
Some of the sample questions that you can ask would be:
- How long have you been in the practice of pediatrics?
- Do you have a subspecialty or area of pediatric interest? If you do have, what is it?
- Do you have children?
- How long does a typical check-up last?
- What are your opinions on breastfeeding? (also include opinions on vaccines and circumcision)
- What are the office hours and how are emergencies handled?
- Do you make house calls?
- Do you accept and answer questions by email?
- Is there a way to reach you after office hours or during an emergency?
- If I have a minor concern, when is the best time to call?
- If you’re not available on the phone, who will handle my questions?
- Is there anything you would like to ask me about my family?
The best thing about doing an interview is that not only will it help you in making a sound and credible assessment, it can also allow you to find out if there is a rapport between you and your potential candidate.
Evaluating the doctor’s office
If you have prepared yourself and your baby for future trips to the doctor’s office, it would also be nice to consider some personal evaluations you can make on the place. After all, it will be like your second home and you want to make sure that the experience will be rewarding not only for the sake of your baby’s health but also for his emotional well-being.
First, check to see how child-friendly the office is. Does it have some books, toys or a TV to keep children, especially the younger ones, entertained (or distracted which is particularly helpful when there’s a need to make very serious discussions)?
On busy days, even if you are at a good office, would you be willing to be seated at the place?
You can also try to find out if the pediatrician’s office will accept your insurance plan or if they make other payment arrangements.
Is the office clean, warm and inviting? At the time of leaving, does it give you a feeling of satisfaction and contentment?
Is there a separate waiting area for sick kids?
Lastly, you may also want to know if the staff is friendly and helpful.