Finding a Pediatrician: Seven Questions to Ask

Your pediatrician serves as a consultant for you to keep your child in good health. You need someone you are comfortable with. Start by asking the people with whom you are already comfortable–your friends. Find out WHY they like their doctor. What is important to them may not be important to you.

ASK YOUR FRIENDS:
1. Do your children feel comfortable with this doctor?

If the doctor can put your child at ease it will make a world of difference in his/her ability to care for your child’s needs. Remember this doctor may be caring for your child for many years and they need to feel comfortable. Your visits will be much better if your child doesn’t feel anxious.

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It is a good idea to get some specific feedback from a family practice doctor, your OB/GYN, a pediatric nurse, or maybe the nurses in the hospital nursery.

But do not ask the receptionist or office staff. Often doctors within a professional circle will take turns for who receives the recommendations for a period of time. The list the receptionist gives you will not mean much. Insist on talking with the doctor yourself.

ASK A DOCTOR OR NURSE:
2. Who would you take YOUR children to?

I once asked my wonderful dentist for orthodontic referrals and he gave me a list of three or four. I didn’t like the first two, so I finally asked him this question and found a fabulous orthodontist!

Remember, they aren’t likely to say anything negative about anyone in particular so don?t ask any questions that would put them in that position.

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By now you should have a sizeable list to choose from. You’ll probably have to check with your insurance to see which doctors are available to you. Then decide how far you’re willing to travel on your worst day (after you’ve been up all night with the baby, you look terrible, the baby is crying, etc.) and eliminate doctors that are too far away. If you prefer one hospital over another, cross off doctors that don?t make visits to that hospital.

Then call the offices of the ones still on your list.

ASK THE OFFICE STAFF:
3. Do you have separate waiting areas for well and sick patients?

You don’t want to pick up another illness while you are there.

4. Will I see the same doctor for well visits and sick visits?

You need to see the doctor with whom you and your child have established the relationship, so this is important.

I was surprised to find out (while I was sick) that I can only see my primary care physician if I schedule my illnesses 3-4 weeks in advance. For urgent care I would see an assistant. So I could only see my doctor when I’m NOT sick. What good is that?

5. Which doctor in your office is most on schedule?

Simple question. They’ll know. Being behind schedule may simple mean that they like to talk with their patients more. That’s fine, but if it is regular, they need to adjust how they schedule appointments to respect your time.

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You should have a shorter list by now based on the above questions. Visit the office of your remaining doctors to observe the setting. You may even talk to parents who are waiting.

WHEN YOU VISIT THE OFFICE, ASK YOURSELF:
6. Is the office staff friendly and helpful?

If the doctor has a good bedside manner, it will show in how happy the staff is.
Whenever I have encountered a cranky receptionist, I have been unhappy with the doctor.

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You may feel comfortable enough with the above searching to choose a doctor. If not, you may want to select a few to interview. Many will not charge you for a consultation but be respectful of their time. Do not ask for advice on specific problems. You are there to find out if they are a good match for you. Be wary of a doctor who is unwilling to meet with you at all.

BEFORE YOU MEET THE DOCTOR, ASK YOURSELF:
7. What issues are important to you? Discuss them with the doctor.

Do you feel strongly about breastfeeding? Immunizations? Sleep habits? Do you have a family history of a certain disorder? How does this doctor deal with these issues? This will give you a chance to find how open he/she is to hearing your concerns and if he/she speaks to you in a friendly manner or is condescending. Do you feel comfortable talking freely? Do you feel he/she likes the job? Is he/she in a hurry?

By now, you’ll know whom you like. And you’ll feel happy knowing you have someone to back you up when your child needs help.

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