It’s a good idea to start looking around while you are still pregnant so that you have your pediatrician already picked out by the time the baby is born. (While most families choose a pediatrician – a doctor who has done a residency and completed special training in pediatrics – some families opt to use a doctor who is a family practitioner.) Probably the easiest way to start is to get a list of doctors who accept your health insurance plan – and who are accepting new patients – and then narrow down that list to the two or three you want to interview. You can also get recommendations from friends, neighbors, relatives, or even your obstetrician or midwife. And if you’re still looking for more suggestions, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers referrals on its web site.
After that, you should schedule a time to meet with a few prospective candidates. Remember that no one doctor is right for everyone, and a doctor your friend recommends might not be the best one for you. If you visit each doctor in person you can get a sense of how his or her office works and get answers to your many questions. Some issues to consider include:
Bedside Manner: Do you feel comfortable talking with the doctor? Does the doctor give you time to answer all of your questions?
Philosophy: Does the doctor seem to be supportive of the issues that are important to you? Some issues that parents feel strongly about include circumcision, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, or vaccinations. You should make sure that if you have strong feelings about an issue, your doctor understands and respects your position.
Office Policies: Does the office staff seem organized and easy to deal with both on the phone and in person? How hard is it to get a same-day appointment? What happens if you need to cancel an appointment? How big is the waiting room? Are there separate waiting areas for sick children? How long is the typical wait to see the doctor? Will your child always see one doctor, or are there other doctors in the practice who will also see your child?
Questions: Lots of times you may have questions about your child’s health that don’t necessarily require an office visit. If you need to call the office with a question, will you be able to speak with the doctor directly, or with a staff person? Will the doctor answer questions by e-mail?
After Hours: Babies and young children have a way of getting sick in the middle of the night or on the weekends. Does the office have a number you can call to talk to someone after business hours? Who will you reach?
Convenience: How long does it take to get to the office? Could you get there in a hurry if you needed to? Does the office have enough parking, and is the parking convenient?
After you’ve made your selection, give yourself some time to see how it goes and to see how the doctor interacts with your child. If you continue to have issues that crop up, and if you cannot resolve those issues with the doctor and his or her office staff, don’t feel bad about looking for a new pediatrician. You and your child deserve the very best doctor – someone who feels comfortable and right for you – to guide you through this important journey as a family.