As a parent, your pediatrician is an essential member of your family’s healthcare team. Finding a pediatrician who not only has medical expertise, but who is also someone you feel comfortable working with can take some time and research. But where do you start to find a physician who’s the right fit for you and your child?
Whether you’re expecting or adopting your first child or moving and need a new pediatrician, you should start your search about a month or two before your child is scheduled to arrive or your moving date. This will give you time to consider several candidates, and you will have a physician in place before your child needs a checkup or gets ill.
What should you consider when choosing a pediatrician?
To build a list of pediatricians you’d like to consider, you can use the American Academy of Pediatrics Find a Pediatrician tool or get a referral from your local medical society. A health advisor can also be helpful in your search, especially if your child needs the care of a pediatric specialist who has experience working with children with special medical issues.
Once you have a list, if you’ll be paying through health insurance, check to make sure the physicians you’re considering accept your insurance plan. Next, there are several considerations you should explore.
- Check credentials. Find out where the physician graduated from medical school and did his or her residency and internship. If the physician is a pediatric specialist, find out where he or she did their fellowship.
- Make sure the physician is board certified. You can check that the physician is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics with this online tool. Board certification means that the physician has passed a specialized exam in pediatrics and undergoes ongoing assessment of his or her skills and knowledge. It’s also good to know if the physician holds any fellowships or is a member of specialty associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Find out if there are any disciplinary actions or malpractice suits against the physician. Contact the medical board in the state where the doctor practices to find out if the physician has received any disciplinary actions or if any malpractice claims have been brought against the doctor.
In addition to professional experience and credentials, it’s also important to consider how accessible a pediatrician is. Most parents prefer a physician close to home so they don’t have travel too far with a sick child.
Interview your candidates
It’s helpful to set up an appointment to meet the physician and discuss your needs and the specifics of how his or her office works. During your interview, you should ask:
- What are your office hours? Do you have weekend or evening hours? Do you have call-in hours or answer emails if I have a question? How do I reach you if we have an after-hours emergency?
- How long does it take to get an appointment? Do you have same-day appointments when my child is sick?
- What hospitals are you affiliated with?
- Are you part of a group practice? If not, who covers when you’re not available?
- What are your treatment policies on the scheduling of vaccinations? What’s your philosophy on circumcision, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, toilet learning or other child-rearing and health issues that are important to you as a parent?
You may also want to consider the pediatrician’s personality and how he or she interacts with you and your child. Were you comfortable asking questions? Did the physician seem to be rushing the appointment? Did he or she communicate clearly in language you could understand?
With all this information in hand, you’ll be well equipped to choose a pediatrician for your child.