Choosing the right doctor for your child is one of the many important responsibilities you have as a new parent. The anxiety and stress this decision causes is not without reason. Your child’s pediatrician will partner with you in your child’s medical care for the next 18 yrs. Whether your child is healthy or has been diagnosed with a serious disease, all parents strive to have a highly qualified doctor treating their child. My oldest is almost 18 yrs old and has had at least 3 pediatricians. I’ve also navigated Dylan’s care with pediatric hematologists and other specialists. Here are some tips/questions I put together as an experienced mom of 3 boys to help with your search.
1.How long have they been practicing?
I prefer to have a doctor who has years of experience, but stays up to date with new research and findings. This can be a challenging breed of doctor to find. Many experienced doctors are stuck in routines and don’t challenge these routines with new paradigms. New doctors don’t have the hands on experience the text books can’t teach. Knowing how long the your doctor has been practicing is valuable in understanding their approach to medicine. I would also research where they went to school. Remember this is your partner and having as much information about their background will give you some insight to their thought process.
2. How diverse is their patient population?
Different communities are affected by different medical trends. In the African American community we are not heavily impacted by lice, while the Caucasian community is not impacted by Sickle Cell Anemia. Your pediatrician should understand disease states that may affect your child and your family. Understanding with anecdotal experience vs textbook experience is completely different.
3. Do they offer same day/walk in appointments?
Schools and daycares are cesspools. If your child is not in a protective bubble chances are they are going to be infected with something. Your pediatrician should be accessible for those emergencies. I don’t like dragging sick babies to the ER and try to avoid the ER at all costs.
First, an Emergency Room visit is pricey. Especially if you don’t have insurance or a high insurance deductible your visit could literally cost thousands. Second there are tons of bacteria festering in the ER. Chances are you will leave with something you didn’t bring with you. Who are these ER doctors anyway ? Most of the times they are students practicing on your child and even if its an experienced doctor you have no idea about their philosophies and medical approach. Lastly, continuity of care is crucial. This strange doctor has no clue about your child’s medical history and relies on your ragged memory to provide details that help them make medical decisions.
Some parents decide to choose Urgent Care instead of the ER for emergencies. They are cheaper and you’re not waiting as long to see a physician. My only issue is I don’t have a relationship with the urgent care doctor. My other concern is continuity of care and keeping all of my children’s medical information in a central location. When you have one child this may not be such a big deal, but when you have 3 and 1 with a serious illness this is crucial for my sanity.
4. Are they available after hours?
Accessibility is key. I need to be able to speak to someone in the middle of the night if there is an emergency. As a new mom you’ll discover the middle of the night is when things go wrong. Fevers spike, vomit is spewed and nasal passages are blocked. It never fails that nights are when things go awry for sleep deprived parents praying for a full night of rest. A call to your pediatrician should ease your fears or alert you when there is a need to seek immediate medical attention.
5. Do they have a child friendly bedside manner?
My oldest sons 2nd pediatrician had a horrible bedside manner. She had resting bitch face and never made attempt to make him feel more comfortable in her office. This is probably why he was deathly afraid of needles and getting blood drawn. I liked her because she and I had similar philosophies about antibiotics, but when we moved I quickly switched pediatricians even though I still shopped at the supermarket near her office.
Pediatricians should at the bare minimum attempt to make your child feel less anxiety in their office. Some people are not built to deal with children and they should not be teachers, pediatric nurses or pediatricians.
This will be difficult to assess without actually seeing the doctor interact with a child. My suggestion is to get referrals from mommy/daddy friends and ask them this question.
6. What hospital are they affiliated with?
If possible you should choose a physician affiliated with the hospital where you’re delivering. It makes the transition from birth to first visit seamless. They will be able to visit the baby in the hospital and have access to their medical records via their digital records system. Trust me my pediatrician is NOT affiliated with the hospital we typically go to for Dylan’s care and it can be a nightmare keeping her in the loop with hospital stays and lab work.
7. Do they treat children who are not vaccinated?
Many parents are opting out of vaccinations because of their link to autism and other side effects. Some doctors are choosing not to accept these patients. Even if you decide to vaccinate and then change your mind at some point you should know where your pediatrician stands on this issue. Also if you’re not sure about vaccinations you don’t want your pediatrician attempting to convince you to make a choice you’re not comfortable with.
8. When do they prescribe antibiotics?
There is a very lengthy discussion that needs to be had about over prescribing antibiotics, but I wont dive into that pool here. Find out specifically when they prescribe antibiotics. Some doctors prescribe antibiotics more freely because patients come into the office with symptoms and demand treatment. They prescribe to satisfy the patients and not because antibiotics are truly warranted. Understanding the philosophies of the practice is key when making your decision.
9. Do they have the ability to run labs in their office?
This is about more than convenience. If the office does not run basic labs they will have to send out your child’s “sample” and wait 24-48 hrs for results. In the case of strep throat and antibiotics are needed two scenarios will play out. The doctor will prescribe antibiotics in anticipation of a positive test result. Or they will wait for the result and prescribe antibiotics the next day when a positive result has been confirmed. Either scenario doesn’t sit well with me. Should I be preemptively giving my child antibiotics without a confirmed diagnosis? Or should I be waiting 24 hrs while the bacteria festers untreated? If they are able to test in the office I receive the results immediately and can proceed with treatment accordingly.
10. Do they listen when you voice your concerns?
This is another reason to get referrals. Some doctors are programmed in the way they see patients. Many of them are overbooked and only have 15 min to spend with each patient or less. Your mommy/daddy friends will be able to tell you if their pediatrician is rushing in and out of the room barely listening to the symptoms the child may be experiencing. My personal physician asks tons of questions and listens closely to my responses. He also poses very well thought out follow up questions. I truly love his approach to my care and I never feel rushed in his office. Choose a pediatrician who makes you feel comfortable discussing your child’s needs.
A pediatrician is there to help you assess a myriad of issues throughout your child’s life including developmental delays. sickness and even behavioral concerns. Choose wisely.